Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk
Mumford & Sons aren’t just a walking, talking banjo. There’s more to the band than casual barndancing and plucked-string singsongs. Signatures of their first two albums most definitely remain on third LP ‘Wilder Mind’, but let’s not kid ourselves - this is a band reinvented. The earnestness and emotion-first approach of ‘Sigh No More’ and ‘Babel’ remain, here.
Much has already been made of Mumford & Sons’ abandonment of their beloved banjos for album number three. Yet anyone who’s seen the quartet live – which, when you consider their knackering touring schedule and commitment to playing far flung fields as well as arenas, is a great many people – will attest that there have always been hints of a rockier side lurking beneath the folksy facade.With the assistance of Arcade Fire producer Markus Dravs on 2009’s ‘Sigh No More’ and 2012’s ‘Babel’, Mumford & Sons rapidly became one of the biggest bands in the world. The abrupt switch of producer for ‘Wilder Mind’ then, only seems a risk until you find out exactly who they’ve roped in to help out.
Mumford and Sons spent the entire publicity run leading up to their third album, Wilder Mind, preparing anyone with two ears and a Spotify account for a drastic change. Banjos? Gone. Suspenders? Locked away in favor of leather jackets and skinny jeans — nostalgia for one era traded in for a revival of the Strokes-led new wave of new wave. Team captain Marcus Mumford even expressed regret about the band’s name, calling the moniker a “ball-ache.” Just as Josh Tillman constructed a beguiling narrative around settling down with a good woman to introduce Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear, the Mumford camp’s campaign centered on the quartet plugging in (much to the consternation of Scruggs-style-loving folkies).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The album opens with an electric guitar, a lot has been made of that, but it's the sustained keys hiding behind it that mark the real difference, although you'd be forgiven for missing them once the rhythm section strike up. However the most startling thing about Wilder Mind is not the electrification, or the nationalisation of Mumford and Sons, it is the extra layers which provide a new depth to their sound.
Mumford & Sons are the defining act of the past few years' folk revival, but there's always been more rock in their blood than that label suggests. Cathartic, heart-swelling anthems like 2010's "Little Lion Man" and 2012's "I Will Wait" are arena rock through and through, even if they are mostly acoustic — just ask anyone who has seen one of the band's sold-out shows. So the news that Mumford & Sons planned to use electric instruments more prominently than ever on their third studio album was no real surprise.
Sometimes, different is good. Other times, it's bad. In the case of Wilder Mind, Mumford & Sons' latest album, different is drastic. The band took a very public hiatus in late 2013, which finally concluded earlier this year. Though out of the spotlight for most of the interim months, the quartet ….
Those who love to hate Mumford & Sons may find themselves in an unexpected quandary with Wilder Mind, the band’s third album. The foursome rose rapidly from the burgeoning London neo-folk scene to become one of the biggest bands in the world with 2012’s Babel, their circa 5m-selling second effort. But for every fan won over by Mumford & Sons’ rollicking, blood-on-the-banjo approach, it seemed, a naysayer would fulminate at the band’s neo-rusticism – a pose imbued with certain class connotations in the UK.
Here’s a sentence that would’ve made absolutely no sense in 2005 (and only slightly more in 2015): The biggest band in the world desperately wants to sound like the National. British folk-blasters Mumford & Sons’ second and most recent album, 2012’s Babel, sold 600k in its first week and has racked up another two mil since in the U.S. alone.
Review Summary: No banjo for you!Mumford and Sons are as polarizing of a band as you’ll find these days. Featuring widely accessible folk that draws praise and nausea alike, they’ve already been hailed as everything from the saviors of the genre to the primary reason for its demise. I suppose it’s all in how you look at it, because even though mainstream folk’s popularity is peaking, there are many who hear Mumford and Sons on the radio alongside Taylor Swift or Ellie Goulding and cite it as evidence that folk music has completely died.
When Mumford & Sons made their debut in 2009, the band's propulsive, earnest folk and banjos-and-suspenders aesthetic set them apart from their modern-rock peers. Rather than writing anthemic post-punk in the vein of the Strokes or Coldplay, Mumford & Sons offered something raw, acoustic, and a little bit hokey. When the wispy opening strums of “Little Lion Man” flourished into those uplifting banjo arpeggios, it seemed like a rootsy take on the Pixies oft-replicated loud-quiet-loud formula that, while not necessarily innovative, was at least identifiably Mumford & Sons' own.
Who could blame Mumford & Sons for running away from their signature banjo stomp? Come 2015, when Wilder Mind saw spring release, so many bands had copped their big-footed folk jamboree that Mumford & Sons could feel the straitjacket constricting, so it's not a surprise that the group decided to try on something new. A change in fashion isn't strange -- no band wants to be pigeonholed -- but the odd thing about Wilder Mind is now that everybody else sounds like Mumford & Sons, Mumford & Sons decide to sound like everybody else. Without their old-timey affectations, the band seems interchangeable with any number of blandly attractive AAA rockers, a group that favors sound over song -- a curious switch for a purportedly old-fashioned quartet.
As the butt of many music fans’ jokes and the subject of a Twitter account dedicated to “spreading awareness of the fact that [they] are a despicably bad band”, Mumford & Sons are among the most reviled musical acts of our age. In summary, their charge sheet reads as follows: first, Mumford & Sons make bland, conservative music beloved of that dreaded figure, the ‘Mondeo Man’. Second, Mumford & Sons are entitled posh boys by virtue of all four members having attended fee-paying schools.
YOU’VE GOT to hand it to Mumford & Sons. It’s not every band that, at its commercial peak, would ditch its trademarks. Mumfords’ new album banishes the banjo, the instrument that made the band stand out in the first place. It’s been replaced with the keening sound of U2-esque electric guitars.
Mumford & Sons are a band who have found the kind of success most artists would do anything to maintain. Their debut album, Sigh No More, and its successor, Babel, have sold something like 7m copies. Their stomping acoustic style proved hugely influential, albeit on the kind of music that makes up the BBC Radio 2 playlist: you could hear its echoes in Gary Barlow’s Let Me Go, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and James Blunt’s Bonfire Heart.
It’s easy to forget that once upon a time Mumford & Sons were Laura Marling’s backing band. Marcus Mumford was her drummer, most of the time, although I once saw her play a stripped-back show during which he shuffled through instruments on an almost a song-by-song basis; he seemed well-versed in all of them, and was evidently a talented musician. His interactions with both the crowd and Marling herself were witty, charming, and warm, too, and when he made brief reference to having been recording his own material recently, I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it.
Marcus Mumford went to New Jersey once. The Sons had been booked for three nights at the Barclays Center — all sold-out shows. The gear is packed up and the band is settled in and ready to speed through the tri-state in a big rustic bullet, the interior of which is done up like a hushed cabin out in the country — wooden floors, oak framed windows, creaky plank door that doesn’t quite lock for the indoor outhouse, the works.
On the surface, Mumford & Sons appear human. Sure, the pseudo-rustic garb they often sport does give the impression that they are a gaggle of Urban Outfitters mannequins brought to life, but on most accounts, they check off all the boxes under the homo sapiens description. Yet, over time, signs have started to crop up, signs that suggest these men are not quite what they seem: that they are, in fact, highly lifelike automatons bent on the overtaking the musical world, one rowdy song after another.
Mumford & Sons didn't have to be awful. A British neo-folk band, liberally applying the trappings of Americana, they made big songs well-suited to big stages, and they made them about as well as possible. But awful they were, nonetheless, a band so determined to be huge that they willed themselves into anonymity. Their latest effort, Wilder Mind, is a "rock" record in the least interesting sense of that word—a pastiche of the genre’s most common elements, from big percussion, electric guitars, and warm synths, to poignant but ultimately surface-level lyrics.
The hoedown is over while the sorrows remain on Mumford & Sons’ decisively transformed third album, “Wilder Mind.” Led by the singer and drummer Marcus Mumford, the band ascended to the arena circuit with foot-stomping songs topped by jaunty banjo picking; it set off a wave of revitalized folk-rock. But with “Wilder Mind,” Mumford & Sons implies that all the old-timey touches were nothing more than decoration. Behind them were the martial beats and inexorable buildups of arena rock, and those have surfaced fully on “Wilder Mind.” It’s an album of mostly despairing love songs that have found an unexpected but fitting outlet: a mope-rock resurgence.
What happens when a band’s name becomes something else — specifically, an adjective for the bands that followed in its wake, tweaking the template that drove it to popularity just enough to be differentiated in the minds of festival bookers and radio programmers? The case of the British quartet Mumford & Sons provides at least one answer. Since its formation in 2007, the band has been known for its tweaked take on Americana, which uses the building blocks of folk songs to create anthems worthy of whipping up polo field-size crowds; other janglers found similar success, serving as aggressively acoustic counterpoints to Spotify- and iTunes-era of music being transmuted into zeroes and ones. But on “Wilder Mind,” Mumford & Sons’ third studio album, the band dispenses with the template that made “Mumford” a sometimes pejoratively employed descriptor of a subgenre, plugging in and wiping away the furious string-strumming — it’s not quite Dylan going electric, but the album’s first note does come from a heavily distorted guitar.
Hate all you want on Mumford & Sons’ vest- and suspenders-adorned, banjo-worshipping, stomping, clapping, kick-drumming brand of poser-folk, but at least it was their thing. Not only was that thing a massive mainstream success, but it also put frontman Marcus Mumford on a gradual path to earning his genre bona fides, participating in such legitimate ventures as the film Inside Llewyn Davis and collective project The New Basement Tapes. Having wooed the masses, and with a shot at some cred among critics and purists, the band had a perfect opportunity on its third album to lose the faux-Americana aesthetics, enlist the help of an outside-the-box creative guru, tweak, experiment, and break some new ground.
opinion by PETER TABAKIS The hootenanny's over and done, y'all. Mumford & Sons, the world's mightiest jug band, now have stadiums to conquer. After rocketing to the big leagues, on the back of American folk sounds, the English group has cast an eye on global domination. This, of course, means they're shedding skin.