Sound — 9
This time around, the knit and grit the band had previously exhumed has a slightly polished sheen to it. Since their debut three years ago, the band has refined their craft while expanding their sound in the recording studio. While the sound has always been large, this go around it feels fuller than ever. The album is littered with rich harmonies, deep echoing volleys of the bass, piano and guitar, and oh man - oh my - oh me (Fleet Foxes anyone?) the grit in Marcus Mumford's voice on "Broken Crown" is unyielding. He's like a lion... A guitar toting, kickdrum stomping lion.
Lyrics — 9
Realistically, the lyrics have evolved very little beyond that of "Sign No More". Yes, the band has a bit of an Old English fetish, but really, what you see is what you get - or in this case, what you hear is what you get. And yes, the word heart is in just about every song at least once. The song lyrics range from hope, pride and optimism, to rage and extreme pessimism. For example, in their first single for the album titled "I Will Wait", the expressed tone of the lyrics is that of being humble and "knowing your ground": "Now I'll be bold / As well as strong / Use my head alongside my heart / So take my flesh / Fix my eyes / Tethered mind free from the lies". Then, in the track "Broken Crown" the lyrics focus on darker, more sorrowful topics. "The pull on my flesh was just to strong / Stifled the choice and the air in my lungs / Better not to breathe then to breathe in a lie / Cause when I open my body I breathe the light / I will not speak of your sins / There was a way out for him / The mirror shows not / Your values are all shot". So while the words themselves have not changed much, their meanings are ever strong. The writing is poetic, gentle and sewn together beautifully whilst being thrust into energy and vibrancy that the band is known for.
Overall Impression — 9
"Babel" is... Impressive. I think the argument over whether it's better than "Sigh No More" can never be won nor lost. Most of music history will state that this band re-engaged a genre of music that many thought would be gone in as little as the next generation. Mumford And Sons revived folk rock for a broader audience. "Sigh No More" will forever be the benchmark for their success. What I believe they have done with "Babel" is create more exceptional folk rock, perhaps securing their career's as musicians for quite a while down the road.