Mumford & Sons' sophomore album, Babel, seeded a lot of expectation on whether or not it would live up to the veneration of their first release, Sigh No More. Selling over 5 million copies of their debut album, these wrangling rock 'n rollers endured a heavy load of anticipation in the long wait for Babel to finally release to the masses. In order to prolong this hype and hunger, the gents toured the world, headlining their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Music Festivals alongside many handpicked artists, and last weekend they performed two of their new songs on Saturday Night Live to an eager audience.
Over the course of the last few months, we were graced with some premature releases such as the upbeat banjo-banger "I Will Wait," mellowed-out and melancholic "Broken Crown," folky foot-stomper "Whispers in the Dark," and anthemic "Below My Feet." With these releases, we were given a taste of what to expect from Babel, and while many artists abrogate from their formal aesthetic, these guys ratified their place in our hearts with logical acoustics and fervent musical consistency.
Classifying this album under the folk genre brings forward the politics that come with it. Yes, we hear a lot of banjos, acoustic guitars and harmonious instrumentals -- but what we also have is a slew of influences from rustic indie rock all the way to gospel. Their impassioned, God-fearing lyrics extract fragments of their previous Sigh No More, but also administer a sigh - no, a breath - of fresh air.
From the start of Babel, to which the first song was named after, Marcus Mumford bequeaths earnest proclamations that seep from his pungent finger-plucking to the enthusiasm echoing from his vocal chords. After "Babel," we transition into "Whispers in the Dark," a track that commences with soothing guitar licks and heartfelt vocals until they build and build into an inevitable Mumford instrumental breakdown with strong chorus chants.
Gone is the fast-and-loose frolic that we have grown accustomed to and in comes an enhanced, razor-sharp exuberance that we knew would eventually happen during three years time. After listening to the first couple of tracks it's clear that under careful consideration and a highly assured approach to their songs, Mumford & Sons succeed in creating authentic, melodramatic music that speak to their religiously-rooted backgrounds and streamlined folk livelihood.
As a follow-up to an outstanding first album, Babel aims to conquer your heart and soul by delivering a new maturity to their collective of work. Fans who love these English troubadours will not be disappointed with the amount of heavy, fast-paced rumpus exuding from every pore. It's a tightened-up, polished version of 2009's Sigh No More, with even more sleek instrumentals and thoughtful lyrical prowess.