Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mind

Written by: TL on 11/05/2015 23:07:57

When Mumford & Sons put out their debut LP "Sigh No More" in 2009 the reaction you had was sort of "well, folk is going to be the new hip thing, of course!". The London quartet was only getting started though, and since then they've gained such widespread popularity that they now routinely play massive venues, and these days when people speak of them there's often a sense that the band is now seen as kinda hokey and uncool. For that reason perhaps, or maybe just because they wanted to try something new, the band has shelved their trademark acoustics and banjo and gone electric.

The proper references have thus changed as the band sounds less like Of Monsters And Men and more like a mix of newer Ben Howard and To Kill A King, and poppier bands like Bastille or Coldplay. Loyal fans should not be worried though, because the change is subtle enough that there are still plenty of tracks on the new album, titled "Wilder Mind", which work exactly as the songs they're used to from the band. Numbers like "The Wolf" and "Broad-Shouldered Beasts" certainly sound familiar when frontman Marcus Mumford raises his voice from his soft base to his strained highs.

And honestly, during these songs, you sort of see why people could have been getting a bit tired of the band. Even during the album's more pleasant moments, you sense that while the songs are melodious and super pleasant to listen to in a casual manner, they're also the kind of predictable that will likely make you feel a bit restless if you're having a concentrated listen, or if you see them live. The band methodically and repetitively deals with this by simply having Mumford raise his voice as described, and when it seems like he automatically adds this pathos in the same way regardless of the song, it does start to lose effect somewhat. Add that Mumford's lyrics, which are confessional in style yet also fragmented and hence somewhat cryptic, have at best been stubbornly romantic and at worst a bit too good at pitying himself, and yeah, the band is occasionally a bit tiresome. And in any case, the folksier songs on here are not on the level of the irresistible ones that made the band, such as "Lover Of The Light", "Little Lion Man" and "Babel".

With that said though, the band definitely deserves praise as well, for making a very deft move to the electric setting. Surprisingly, this has not brought along an inflated or much louder sound. Instead, the group has done very well at creating a minimalist sound, with subtle leads and an elegant, immersive ambiance creating atmosphere in the back. It sounds like they could have drawn inspiration from The National, even if Mumford plays it much more safe with his vocal melodies than a Matt Berninger. When you combine this with the upbeat yet tempered drumming, the band stumbles on gold in some quietly brilliant tracks like opener "Tompkins Square Park" and in "Snake Eyes", both of which end up highlighting the album. The single "Believe", although a different type of song, also deserves a mention for being calmly catchy in a way that avoids the tryhardness the band otherwise trips on occasionally.

As an album then "Wilder Mind" actually has some commendable songs to its name that are worth checking it out for. And even if the surrounding songs are more uneven, the transformation Mumford & Sons have made by going electric has them sounding more pleasant and less predictable than previously. In fact, you only wish they had moved even further in this direction, as it is the remains of their old habits that fall short, especially because they can't really live up to the best moments the band had back in their banjo days.

7

Download: Tompkins Square Park, Believe, Snake Eyes
For The Fans Of: Ben Howard, To Kill A King, Coldplay
Listen: facebook.com/mumfordandsons

Release date 04.05.2015
Gentlemen Of The Road / Island / Glassnote

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