Here’s an opinion you could disagree with but it wouldn’t matter to me anyway, Mumford & Sons‘ first two albums sound almost identical to one another. That’s not to say they’re not good, in fact I jumped on the bandwagon with everyone else after I heard Little Lion Man, but it didn’t take long for me to find the Sigh No More album underwhelming when listening to it from beginning to end. So much so that I was reluctant to bother getting Babel. But I did, and it did prove to be a little better but hardly anything new. It has a few more standout tracks to it and showed some maturity, but the band was living off their own old tricks. I mean who isn’t tired of I Will Wait? So despite the mixed reaction towards Mumford & Sons drastic change of direction with their recently released third album Wilder Mind, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
The first song I heard from Wilder Mind is the first song just about everybody heard from the album. Believe proved to be nothing like what anyone expected from Mumford & Sons, just as the band obviously wanted. It’s keyboard driven music along with the usage of electric guitars (something only so seldom used in Mumford & Sons’ past) turned heads and divided fans everywhere, or so I read. Most people I ask loved the new direction that Believe takes.
The second song released from Wilder Mind, though I chose not to listen to it until the album came out, was The Wolf. This song proved to be even better than Believe, given its higher energy level and the passion Marcus Mumford puts into his vocals. Appropriately enough, both of these Mumford & Sons songs almost perfectly show both sides of Wilder Mind’s spectrum.
On one side of Wilder Mind you have the softer/slower songs similar to Believe such as Cold Arms which features nothing but a clean sounding guitar and Marcus Mumford‘s vocals, the slightly louder Monster, and one of the albums finest tracks Only Love. Only Love is a song that gradually builds up more and more, starting with the sounds of soft keyboards, to harmonized vocals reminiscent of the harmonized vocals used on some of Mumford & Sons folk classics, then there are some electric guitar sounds in the background before finally about three minutes in the full band blasts out into one of the wildest outputs you’ve ever heard from them. I strongly feel this track should have been the closing track rather than the penultimate track, but I guess closing track Hot Gates, another slower piano driven song, wasn’t the worst choice to end Wilder Mind.
The other half of Wilder Mind has a very indie rock influence to its sound similar to The Wolf, starting with opening track Tompkins Square Park, Just Smoke, the album’s title track and another of the finer tracks on the album, Ditmas. Broad-Shouldered Beasts and Snake Eyes are somewhere between the two spectrums of the album, as they have soft rock appeal but they sounds like indie rock songs. At times the drums do sound like they were clearly recorded at a completely different time than the rest of the instruments were recorded. Mumford & Sons has never been a band with a full time drummer. Having seen them live, it was Marcus Mumford who’d step behind the kit the few times that their show would call for it. Credited on drums for Wilder Mind is the album’s producer James Ford. This makes me question whether the drums are even real or if James Ford is doing something like what Glen Ballard did on Alanis Morissette‘s Jagged Little Pill, but I’ll trust that the drums are genuine.
I do feel Mumford & Sons didn’t have to completely get rid of their acoustic instruments, and maybe they could have incorporated some banjo into some of these songs. One could only hope such a collaboration is being saved for future studio albums. For now we have Wilder Mind, a very broad statement by a band who wanted to do something different, either because they thought that’s what fans wanted or because they realized there’s only so many ways they are capable of writing songs on banjo’s and accordions. Whatever the reason is, we undoubtedly have one of the most subtly unique albums to come out in years.
“The Wolf” – The softer songs on Wilder Mind sound like many past Mumford & Sons songs sound just with different instruments. It’s the more rocking songs that really show a statement on for the band has decided to change, and there is simply no better choice for a highlight than The Wolf, arguably being from beginning to end the most passionate song on Wilder Mind.
8 (Out of 10)
|1.||“Tompkins Square Park”||5:11|