Babel by Mumford & Sons

Megan Poulos, Contributing Writer

Babel is defined as a confused noise, typically made by a number of voices.

If this album does not sound like your cup of tea in terms of music, fear not. Although the album title and cover art may advertise confusion, the sound and authenticity of the group Mumford & Sons could not be any clearer.

Upon first listening to the album, the sophomore album of the band, hardcore folk fans might be tempted to take up a washboard as an instrument, or run through a wheat field barefoot. However, for those of us who swim in the mainstream (and can appreciate an Ariana Grande song or two) heavy banjo use is not exactly appealing. Upon further inspection, Babel is much more than just some males harmonizing a century after barbershop quartets went out of style.

The songs on this album share a certain fluidity; one song naturally leads into the other in a way that gets the reader caught up in one long wave of melodious sound. This makes the listening experience easy and solidifies the clear style of sound Mumford & Sons is going for. This “sound” can be loosely defined as a folk soft-rock blend with the aforementioned heavy banjo use. This sound is extremely rare in top-charted music, and has become inextricably associated with the name Mumford & Sons.

The bands’ characteristic style does have a downfall: repetition. The instrumental backdrop and vocalization, including basic harmonies and acoustic use, are nearly identical in every song. For those looking to see if the ease of Mumford & Son’s unique vocals and powerful acoustics is for them, one or two songs off the album is enough to get a full understanding of this band’s work. That being said, the songs present themselves in a way that is easily acceptable to lovers of all genres, with some softness, some rock, a touch of country, and lyrics that are both meaningful and relatable.

The most prominent example of this is “Babel,” the title track of the album. The song boasts a solid beat with a fair mix of the lead singer’s usual gruff belt and a bit of softness, this song is well regarded by fans as one of their best.

However, their third track of the album, “I Will Wait,” is by far the most popular. Packing a soft but powerful punch of fabulous melodies and an unusual but catchy beat, it should be no surprise that this song has the most commerciality. But it still appeals to the band’s uniqueness with banjo riffs and use of typical folk instruments. It is both fun and bright without being obnoxious, and could be played as easily on a sunny road trip as a barnyard stomp.

“Lover of the Light,” a middle of the album juggernaut, reveals a more tender side of the band, still featuring a booming chorus, but also soulful lyrics with moments of peaceful acoustics accompanied by the fitting voice of folksy lead singer, Marcus Mumford. The song does an excellent job of building in tonal quality and leading up to bursts of musical accompaniment and roaring vocals.

As a whole, this album is an excellent culmination of the band’s acoustic strengths and uniqueness, but also telling of Mumford & Sons’ one-trick nature.