Sound — 9
Mumford and Sons, at their core, is a folk band. There is acoustic guitar, banjo, upright bass, bass drum stomping, and piano interwoven throughout the songs on this disk. Rather than be limited to just these simples sounds, Mumford and Sons has expanded the sound with some interesting recording techniques (such as heavy reverb, horns, guitar scraping, acoustic overdriven guitar, charging cymbals, etc.) which are not common within the genre and expand what is expected from the genre. Rather than being held to folk traditions they have expanded what the music could be. Haunting vocal melodies underline lyrics and follow the movement of the ever present emotions within the songs - a feat which is replicated live, showing the natural talent of the members of the band. The music constantly shifts and builds into huge crescendos of sound or falls deep into valleys of bare acoustic and lamenting lyrics. Marcus Mumford really does an excellent showing of how acoustic guitar can be played, experimenting with interesting tunings and shifting from nimble finger picking to furious strumming with ease - which fits the music rather than overpowers it. These lads from the UK really made a cohesive and entertaining CD to listen to.
Lyrics — 9
Folk albums are made or broken by how well the lyrics tell a story or encourage the listener to relate to the emotion within the songs, and Mumford and Sons certainly is no slouch here. The lyrics often take interesting twists and run the full gamut of human emotions. Roll Away Your Stone is an interesting take on some sort of falling out, with such lyrics as "It seems that all my bridges have been burned - But you say 'That's exactly how this grace thing works' and later on "And so I will be found with my stake stuck in the ground marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul" Metaphors such as this are found throughout the lyrics, showing an intelligence and maturity for a first CD. Perhaps a take on the times, Dust Bowl Dance shows anger in the ultimate form - "There will come a time I will look in your eye, you will pray to the God that you always denied - then I'll go out back and I'll get my gun, I'll say, 'You haven't met me, I am the only son'" Love is shown beautifully in this CD, and doesn't come across as cliche - shown as a lasting emotion rather than merely a brief feeling in After the Storm - "And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears, And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears." The singing is completely spot on throughout as well, with heavy harmonies backing many of the lyrics. Mumford and Sons really have crafted well written songs which stand out, a feat which is even more impressive considering the strength of the writing throughout the CD.
Overall Impression — 9
Mumford and Sons really make an impression on you from the moment Sigh No More builds into its first chorus to the last yearning chorus in After the Storm. This CD is quality through and through, showing a river of emotional peaks and valleys underwritten by building instrumentals and sparse acoustic sections. I think the best aspect of this CD is Mumford and Sons ability to show human emotion within their songs, from the fabric of the instruments to the stitching of the lyrics. The cohesion and quality is excellent, with almost nothing of note "wrong" with the CD. Mumford and Sons really set the bar high for the rest of us with this outing.