Sound — 10
Mumford And Sons is probably one of the biggest breakout bands of the current generation. They have partially inspired the resurgence of bluegrass and folk music in non-pop culture, have won quite a few international music rewards, and were nominated for many many more, standing solely on their debut album. If "Sigh No More" was considered a major success, "Babel" can only be considered a triumph. The band does an excellent job drawing the listener in by starting out with sounds quite familiar to their first LP and expanding gently but firmly into new areas as the album progresses. Most of the album runs in the folk vein of "Sigh No More", yet the overall sound manages to feel quite different, particularly when the music ends and you find yourself sitting in the stillness that ensues. The music is captivating, and never feels out of place or forced, which can often be a problem on a sophomore album. As a whole, the album moves in tone from piercing extroversion to reverent introversion, and the effect this leaves can be described in few words other than stunning.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically, "Babel" is pure, intimately masculine poetry. Yes, it is quite similar in tone to "Sigh No More". This alone could hardly be a criticism, and yet the lyrics seem to go even deeper than the band's previous release, with bloody-raw honesty when needed and firm delicacy at other times. Every song seems to come from the heart, and such a feat is worth great praise in today's society. By the end of the album, a finely-tuned listener can't help but feel like they have spent the past hour staring into the heart of a strong but transparent man. As far as content, most of the album deals with feelings of internal emotional and spiritual struggle. The level of ambiguity used makes it easy to personalize what is being said, and every song can mean something different to every listener. Here are just a couple examples of lyrics taken from the songs "Babel" and "Holland Road", respectively: "I cry, 'Babel! Babel! Look at me now! '/Then the walls of my town, they come crumbling down/You ask where will we stand in the winds that will howl, /As all we see will slip into the cloud/So come down from your mountain and stand where we've been, you know our breath is weak and our body thin". "But I still believe though these cracks you'll see, /When I'm on my knees I'll still believe, /And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found, /If you believe in me I'll still believe".
Overall Impression — 10
"Babel" is really nothing short of a masterpiece, but most of what the listener will experience will depend on genre preferences. For the listener who likes mostly acoustic music with heavy folk influence, I have no doubt you will be very impressed with this album, and it is certainly a must-hear. For the listener who doesn't enjoy gritty folk rock, I would still absolutely recommend this album, and whether or not you enjoy it is up to you. The band continues to produce what they do best, and have done it even better this time around. Personally, there is not one song I am unimpressed with on "Babel", and it is an album best heard in one sitting the first time. If I had to pick favorites, they would be "Babel", "Hopeless Wanderer", "Broken Crown", "Holland Road", and "Not With Haste". I hope that those who listen to this album will enjoy it for everything it is intended to be. I don't give 10/10's often, but I am confident that "Babel" will become one of my favorite albums this year. The highest compliment I can give is that it is beautiful, raw art, and Babel earns each syllable of such a phrase.