mattiscool7337, on september 26, 2012 4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 10
Lyrics: 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". // 10
Overall Impression: "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. // 10
Macheeoo, on september 27, 2012 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 9
Lyrics: 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. // 9
Overall Impression: "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. // 9
theeear, on october 01, 2012 2 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sound: As an overall sound I can't complain about the album. The quality of the recording is obviously to a higher standard than their "debut" album but adding horns and orchestra backing doesn't win me over. There has been a lot of talk about Marcus's gritty voice and how they are amping up the sound (potentially for areas)... Marcus's voice definitely has an interesting quality to it that makes you hang on his every word but the constant go go go of the first 4 tracks make me relieved when "Ghosts That We Knew" finally comes into play. Its so refreshing when you get to hear him really sing than when he's constantly belting out. I feel as though I'm listening Christian Bale as batman from time to time (exaggeration). Yes, in between these tracks they subside long enough for you to gather your thoughts about the previous track but once you hear that kick drum come back you know the overpowering banjo is soon to follow (and I love banjo!). It just seems to me that Mumford & Sons says here is the part where the song builds and it is one of maybe three equations: full instrument blow out, oh's and ah's, big harmonies (not horrible but others do it much more justice). I found my self hearing too many similarities between tracks on the album and even between albums. Is no one irritated that the strumming in "I Will Wait" (first single) and "Little Lion Man" (first single) are pretty much the same as well as many banjo picking patterns? // 7
Lyrics: "A brush with the devil can clear your MIND and straighten your SPINE." "When I'm on my KNEES I still BELIEVE." "Ghosts in my HEAD / They run wild and wish me DEAD." "Shake my ash to the WIND / Lord forget all my SINS." "I was under your SPELL when I was told by Jesus all was WELL."
This is what happened in my mind every time I heard a new verse. With the "hanging on every word" quality of Marcus's voice I mentioned before its hard not to notice this annoying flaw in the album. With the inflections he is makes its almost like a punch at the end of every statement, as if to reinforce "i>Hey everyone this is the word I'm using to rhyme". I do appreciate the content of the religious references and undertones. I thought that in some moments such as the use of the word "f--k" was more sincere than when used in "Little Lion Man" but those moments were too few and far between. // 5
Overall Impression: Between the repetition of certain elements instrumentally and the punchy rhyming it was hard for me to really have a great impression of the album. "Sigh No More" rode the roller coaster better than "Babel" and by that I mean the emotion of the album didn't flow well from tempo, to subject matter, to creative moments. It's not the worst album in the world. I would still recommend it over most anything on the radio. // 5