posted on October 20, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
Review Snapshot: This London folk foursome presented their first album, 'Sigh No More', at the beginning of this month, following in the footsteps of the contemporary Noah and the Whale, and echoing the forlorn vocals of Neil Young. Mumford & Sons' unique brand of indie-folk, with edgy lyrics and widely varied music, will not be everyone's favourite, but for the more eclectic, this is an absolutely brilliant debut from a promising band.
The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10
I readily confess that I’m not a huge fan of folk music. I’ve never really considered the banjo as a serious instrument, and had someone asked me what I thought of the genre, I would have raised an eyebrow and said that I wasn’t that into it. I was surprised, then, by this album, which I immediately liked. It mixes traditional-sounding introductions with thunderous climaxes, replete with roaring distortion and the ever-present banjo (which really does work in this context). The acerbic lyrics are at odds with the often bright and bouncy music. In all, it’s an interesting and accessible record, even for those who aren’t normally into folk.
‘Sigh No More’, the first track, opens up with tranquil guitar and chorus, and builds up to a powerful crescendo. The refrain,
“Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,
Be more like the man you were made to be”,
is invigorating and refreshing. ‘The Cave’, once again edgy and innovative, combining a pleasing hook, a bright melody, and unnerving lyrics: “I will hold on hope and I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck” is typical of the sort of contrast Marcus Mumford, the lead singer, draws throughout the album. ‘Winter Winds’ is similar, exploring the theme of insincere love and loneliness, to a warm, cheerful tune.
‘Roll Away Your Stone’ is a brisk, buoyant ballad, with the same gloomy undercurrents. ‘White Blank Page’ is much darker, with a wistful tune and embittered lyrics, this time in waltz-time. ‘I Gave You All’ develops the melancholic strain further, recalling the beginning of the first track with the similar chorus.
This record is one of those that gets better as it goes on. ‘Little Lion Man’ is much more energetic, but still sinister; it’s also my favourite track on the album. Mumford & Sons seem to like playing with rhythms, and the syncopation of the guitar makes this an interesting song rhythmically as well as anything else. ‘Timshel’, easily the shortest song on the album, is puzzling and interesting. Motifs run throughout this record, and the idea of brotherhood and unity, first mentioned in ‘I Gave You All’, forms the refrain of this track. ‘Timshel’ reads like a poem, and it isn’t alone; it’s because of this that I think they have great potential.
‘Thistle and Weeds’ is an epic piece, beginning with the quiet gloom of the past few tracks and building up to a storm of desperation and darkness. Once again, we see artful repetition: the refrain in this song, “I will hold on hope”, echoes exactly the chorus in ‘The Cave’. ‘Awake My Soul’, then, seems incongruent, with its mellow tune and seemingly innocuous lyrics. It is this very discomfort that this band are so capable of exploiting.
‘Dust Bowl Dance’ is another desperate ballad, that uses interesting blues-rock and psychedelic guitar in a tasteful and completely unexpected manner. ‘After The Storm’, the last song and a subdued but uplifting summary, resurrects once more the refrain of the introductory track, nicely tying the album together.
I am greatly impressed by this band: not only is their debut album lovely to listen to, it’s also a real work of art. 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 & Sons are poets, and I’m already looking forward to their next release. If you’re already into the folk scene, or if you’re looking for something refreshing, this album is a must-buy. If not, then please don’t complain that it isn’t mainstream enough.