Listening to the surreal celtic-folk-inspired sound of London’s Mumford & Sons for any significant period of time, it’s hard not to hear echoes of Canada’s nearest equivalent, Arcade Fire. Even though the two bands don’t share a genre, and Arcade Fire is decidedly more indie-rock friendly, the huge, wild-and-weaving full band arrangements of Marcus Mumford and company have the same balls-to-the-wall intensity of the Canadian band, as though this could be what Arcade Fire would sound like in an alternate dimension in which Win Butler was musically born in Eire rather than Québec.
And though I noted that Mumford & Sons isn’t as indie-pop “friendly” as many of their contemporaries, including London’s Noah and the Whale, they’ve definitely got the balls to make it in the music world, having dared to release the insanely catchy, profanity-laced “Little Lion Man” as Sigh No More’s first single. And that’s helped them find success which, while it may not be truly mainstream, is certainly popular on the fringes, including with David Letterman, who had them play the song on his show back in February.
But the music’s where it’s all made or broken, and there’s not a thing “broken” about this music, even when the songs are about the most broken down of men. The arrangements are all epic and intense, frequently dropping back to quiet acoustics and vocals, only to develop into a wild bar stomp with an intense chorus surrounded by fiddles and frenetic bass, coupled with sounds like an entire pub of drunken patrons handling background vocals. In that regard the album reminds me of one of my favorites from 2009, upstate New York’s Auld Lang Syne, whose album Midnight Folly did the same thing with country that Mumford & Sons is doing with Irish Folk. These songs are meant to be heard in all their full-volumed glory, rising each listener falling and falling with each song’s intensity until they own your soul.
In the end, Sigh No More is one of those albums you have to experience in order to really understand their sound and its power. It’s an album that rewards patience and attention, but when you do fall under its spell you’re destined to be a fan for good, hoping for a wild and racous American tour to tide us over until the band gets back into the studio for another round. It’s already my favorite new album of 2010, hands down.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.