Often you will find when an artist attempts to bring a non-mainstream style of music to the masses, the cynics start clearing their throat in anticipation of chanting “you sold out”. Personally however I for one believe that if a band can deliver an unfancied genre to the forefront of popular music then they should be applauded for having the talent to achieve what previously has been unachievable. One such genre is folk, and while artists such as ‘Noah and the Whale’, ‘Bon Iver’ and the ‘Fleet Foxes’ have started a minor revival in the folk movement this has all been to much critical acclaim whilst not achieving much in the way of popular success. For the first time however things could be about to change with the emergence of London quartet ‘Mumford & Sons’.
Track By Track Guide: –
1. Sigh No More:
This song starts worryingly low-key, all gentle guitar strums with some great vocal harmonies, and for half its length the song leaves you wondering whether its even worth listening on, then at almost precisely halfway through its running time it breaks into something remarkable, Mumford lets loose with a howl and it turns into a finely pitched piece of forceful music which after the sedate beginning takes you by surprise whilst paving the way for the finest parts of the rest of the album.
2. The Cave:
This song has been picked up by the BBC and was being used as the music behind their upcoming shows advert. ‘The Cave’ arrives with another subtle guitar line that compliments vocalist ‘Marcus Mumford’ perfectly. This song also boasts the addition of piano, cascading drums and banjo it is a song that is extremely hard not to warm too. Especially when towards the end Marcus’ vocals become so passionate that they nearly reach breaking point, leading to a momentous ending that is as close to pop perfection that folk can get.
3. Winter Winds:
One of my favourite songs on this album, this is the song that caught my attention towards ‘Mumford and Sons’ having heard this on Radio 1.
‘Winter Winds’ is a rustic sway of trumpets, mandolin and double bass that swoops and builds through a dynamic parabola. The track perfectly balances the thin line between overt grandiosity and tender subtlety. The track begins with a melodic burst of trumpets and country-esque foot-stomp drums that quickly drop down to just a mandolin, this allows singer Marcus Mumford’s gently cracking voice to sit centre stage.
4. Roll Away Your Stone:
Another slow start gradually builds its way up to what can only be described as a brilliant hoe down that will just force you to tap your feet or try country dancing. ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ is a brisk but incredibly buoyant ballad.
5. White Blank Page:
This song is a much darker wistful tune with some deeply embittered lyrics, in which Mumford fantasizes a letter to an ex who is now beyond his reach. Dramatic violins and sudden chunks of piano melt with an angry yet sorrowful vocal performance, despite the mournful surface of the song there does seem to be a sense of redemption by the song’s end.
6. I Gave You All:
This song develops the melancholic strain further and recalls the beginning of opening track ‘Sigh No More’, as the song starts slowly and about halfway through switches as it lets loose.
7. Little Lion Man:
This was the lead single from the album and it is easy to see why, complete with one of the catchiest sing-along choruses, ‘Little Lion Man’ is backed by a bluegrass banjo-led hoedown that makes it difficult for anyone to stay still. This song is incredibly energetic yet still completely sinister, I can’t help but think that if they were to re-release this song it may well be the final breakthrough for ‘Mumford And Sons’.
This is the shortest song on the album at a little under 3 minutes and is probably the most traditional folk song on the album; this song is stripped back and built around some fantastic vocal harmonies between the band, and has an almost hymnal quality to it.
9. Thistle And Weeds:
This is probably the most epic song on the album starting with a slow brooding, gloomy feel with some fantastic piano accompaniments before building up to a storm of desperation and darkness.
10. Awake My Soul:
This song is a gem, a soul stirrer, which doesn’t absolutely follow the trademark Mumford & Sons route to goal and stands out because of it. It is dreamily and soothingly sang by Marcus Mumford, and is probably the most beautiful track on the album. It is also responsible for some good almost philosophical lyrical content in one liners like “In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die… Where you invest your love, you invest your life”.
11. Dust Bowl Dance:
This is a desperate ballad that uses interesting blues-rock and psychedelic guitar in a tasteful and completely unexpected manner. This is another slow-burner that burns in folk-rock Hell for the last two and a half minutes.
12. After The Storm:
This song is a reflective ending to the album and a track that mirrors the title track ‘Sigh No More’, it is a subdued but uplifting summary that nicely ties the album together, a solid conclusion to a great debut album.
I am greatly impressed by this band and this album not only is it great to listen to, they have already created their own style, distinct from, if closely related to, their influences and contemporaries, and they have certainly proven their ability to write good music. Mumford and Sons seem to have the art of modern folk song writing down to a tee and they do it in a way that isn’t just for people who eat straw and sit on stools with long matted beards plucking at worn out guitars. On Sigh No More you are treated to a collection of carefully constructed songs that brim with passion while occasionally having enough pop leanings to remain radio friendly having already hit number eleven in the UK album charts. It is truly a rarity to see a band who can appeal to the masses and yet still show so much passion, emotion and love for their job, and it’s wholly refreshing to enjoy a band almost as much as they seem to be enjoying it themselves.