Music review: Mumford & Sons keeps its sound steady

by Peter Duell

Few contemporary artists have the ability to create and deliver music that grabs a hold of a person’s heart and soul and squeezes out every feeling, every emotion, every drop of life and splays it across a canvas of song.

Mumford & Sons are among the few and do so quite well. In its debut album, “Sigh No More,” Mumford & Sons sets itself apart from other mainstream groups by creating a unique sound that is good but inflexible at times. It is soft, followed by a punch of vigor, then suddenly receding. And people love it.

On Sept. 25, Mumford & Sons released its second album, “Babel,” and with it came the same rich and passionate instrumentals and vocals.

The music in “Babel” has soul, finesse and power in its simplicity. The melodies aren’t complex. The notes and chord progressions are nothing new.

What makes Mumford & Sons different in “Babel” is its ability to force all of its being into the songs and then blow them up to that iconic Mumford & Sons sound on the album and in live performances.

“Frontman Marcus Mumford’s impassioned and rasping vocals give the air of a man who is at least singing for his supper and, on occasion, even his life,” said Ian Winwood of BBC, regarding the sounds of “Babel.” “[The songs] flutter like a quickly beating heart, melodies drifting in and out of focus as the moods shift from gentle refrain to dominant force. It’s beautiful and stirring.”

Other critics were not so impressed. However, many who rated the album lower did not dislike the music itself. What disheartened them was the lack of progression in the sound and style of Mumford & Sons. They heard “Sigh No More” and loved it. They expected a grander, more majestic and advanced tone in “Babel,” but instead got just grand and just majestic.

I’m perfectly satisfied with the latter. Mumford & Sons’ powerful yet often gentle sounds stir the soul and emotions and move them in ways that few other contemporary musicians can. I am delighted Mumford & Sons stuck to its passionate style. I am delighted with the lack of change.

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