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album review: “Babel” wins big at 55th Annual Grammys

Mumford & Sons. Photo Credit: The Troubadour’s Road
Mumford & Sons.
                                                                                                              Photo Credit: The Troubadour’s Road

When Mumford & Sons’ newest album “Babel” was released last September, it was quickly evident that it was destined for greatness.  On Feb. 10, it achieved this by winning “Album of the Year” at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

Mumford & Sons hail from West London and broke into the British folk-rock music scene in 2007.  In 2010, they released their first album, “Sigh No More,” in England and Ireland and released it in the U.S. the following year.

“Sigh No More” brought worldwide attention to the alternative folk rock band and two Grammy nominations that year for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Song.” But Mumford & Sons failed to win either category.

Now with “Babel,” they have won one of the biggest musical awards possible: “Album of the Year.”

“Babel” opens with its title track and a punch of sound.  Unlike “Sigh No More,” the opening track of the freshman album, “Babel” catches the listener’s attention immediately with heavy banjo pickin’ and the unmistakable voice of Marcus Mumford.  Mumford has a voice that shows the wear and tear of the long road to success.

As on “Sigh No More,” Mumford & Sons maintain their mastery of musical suspense, and it is very difficult to grow tired of their energy.  In “I Will Wait,” the boys show the build and release they are remembered for in previous songs like “The Cave.”

Though the music has not evolved much since “Sigh No More,” the band packs more punch in each song.  They have fine-tuned their musicality to a specific sound and stay consistent throughout the album.

Mumford grew up in the church.  His parents are national leaders of the Vineyard Church in England and Ireland.  This church upbringing shows through in his music as the band unites in layered harmonies, allowing the audience to feel perfectly comfortable singing along.

Although Mumford often sings of a betrayer’s guilt in the eyes of the Lord, this is by no means a Christian album.  Some lyrics, like in “Lover’s Eyes” where he sings, “Lord, forget all of my sins,” give a different impression.

“Babel” confesses the trials of love, life and heartache the band members have endured, creating a special vulnerability many bands attempt to create, but fail at.  This vulnerability allows the audience to have a more personal listening experience, feeling closer to the band than it actually is.

In the second half of “Babel,” the songs slow down considerably and make the listener wonder if Mumford is the sinner or the betrayed.  He seems to be one and both at the same time, pleading for forgiveness, and battling with whether or not to let love back in his life.  In “Hopeless Wanderer,” Mumford sings, “Hold me fast, hold me fast, ’cause I’m a hopeless wanderer,” and begs for another chance with his lover.

“Babel” is a finely crafted collection of music, filled with raw emotion that will pull on the strings of anyone’s heart.  It is no surprise it won Album of the Year.

mshea@unews.com

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