Sound — 6
Mumford & Sons formed in London in 2007, where the "West London Folk Scene" was simultaneously being noticed by the record industry and music fans. The band soon picked up a label, and released their first album, "Sigh No More" in 2009. The release of "Sigh No More" resulted in much more touring for the band, and their career has maintained an upward trajectory since that time. The band hinted at their third album, "Wilder Mind" in January 2015, and officially announced it in March 2015. "Wilder Mind" contains 12 tracks with a runtime of approximately 48 minutes. The first two singles from the album were "Believe" in March, and "The Wolf" in April. The band also released "promotional singles," "Snake Eyes" and "Hot Gates," both in April. A deluxe version of the album is also available, which has an additional four tracks, which are all live versions of songs from the album.
The album opens up with "Tompkins Square Park," which reminds me of The National or a few other of the modern indie bands that have been popular lately. The vocal melodies also seem to be out of character for the band. "Believe," which is the lead single from the album, sounds like it may have initially been written as a folk rock song, but it was converted to be heavier and more "indie rock." "The Wolf" is the second single from the album, and it is definitely outside of the realm of the Mumford & Sons that we all know - with possibly a touch of punk rock mixed in with alternative/indie rock sound. The title track, "Wilder Mind," is another track that sounds like it was originally written to be a folk song, but then was reinterpreted into something a little different. "Just Smoke" has the strongest ties to the band's older sound, with Mumford actually singing in a way that is familiar to me. "Monster" has a slower instrumental intro to the song, and a syncopated drum part that drives the song forward in a relaxed type of way. The vocals are more relaxed on the song as well, making this potentially my favorite song on the album.
"Snake Eyes" is a softer song, but it doesn't have the energy I'm accustomed to hearing from the band. "Broad-Shouldered Beasts" opens up with a melody on guitar and softer vocals. The track builds up and eventually becomes very intense, and temporarily re-captures the energy I listen for in a Mumford & Sons release. "Cold Arms" sounds like it should be a country folk ballad, but the fact that it is played on an electric guitar kind of throws you off the trail. I did like that the song is fairly simple and it just works that way. "Ditmas" opens up with a weird little drum part - sounds like it is made from programmed samples - and a little repeating guitar figure. The guitars get a little distorted on this one, but it works okay for the track. Part of the vocal melody reminds me of "Save Tonight." "Only Love" is played and sang softly for most of the song, but it does get a little gritty near the end, where the band would normally start going crazy on their banjo and mandolin. The album closes out with the track, "Hot Gates," which isn't that bad, despite the fact that it doesn't sound like the Mumford & Sons that I know. The deluxe version of the album contains 4 more tracks, which are live versions of other tracks on the album - "Tompkins Square Park," "Believe," "The Wolf" and "Snake Eyes." Honestly, the best way I can describe the live songs is that they sound like a mix of R.E.M., The Strokes, and The Black Keys. I would save my money and get the regular edition of the album.
Lyrics — 7
The lead vocals by Mumford & Sons has always been the band's namesake, Marcus Mumford, go from familiar territory to alien landscapes in term of expectations on "Wilder Mind." The rest of the band provides backing vocals very successfully, and there is nothing I have to complain about here. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from "The Wolf": "Wide-eyed with a heart made full of fright/ Your eyes follow like tracers in the night/ And the tightrope that you wander every time/ You have been weighed, you have been found wanting/ Been wondering for days/ How you felt me slip your mind/ Leave behind your wanton ways/ I want to learn to love in kind/ 'Cause You were all I ever longed for/ Sheltered, you better keep the wolf back from the door/ He wanders ever closer every night/ And how he waits begging for blood/ I promised you everything would be fine." No complaints on the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 6
Bands change styles, and I can understand and respect that. I still don't feel like this was the best move for Mumford & Sons. I hope that the band finds their equilibrium for their next release. My favorite tracks from the band would be "Monster" and "Cold Arms." I don't dislike any songs on the album, but most of them don't grab me, either.