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  • Babel
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 25, 2012
This album is beautiful. Truly. It doesn't disappoint.

There's always a bit of trepidation when you start listening to a second release by a band/musician that you love- you worry that there'll be some dramatic change in musical style or songwriting, etc.

But have no worries- the classic Mumford & Sons sound is totally here- if anything, it sort of FLOURISHES on "Babel". There are the great, clever lyrics ("press my nose up to the glass around your heart"), the layered building of each song into a sort of soaring crescendo, all that good stuff. Just even better. Their sound is richer without being too polished or manufactured in any way. They are all just doing more of what they are so good at.

I love that this album is designed as a whole- there was clearly a lot of thought put in the way the songs were ordered. In this age of MP3s and individual tracks, arranging tracks for an album seems to be something some artists don't too much thought to, but there's a nice structure to "Babel", as a whole. I have enjoyed listening to it as a complete album, which is sort of rare these days. When it's over I just start it up at the beginning and play it all again. Even the more spare songs (which I don't love as much as I love when the band goes all out) appeal to me when the album is played as a whole.

My favorite thing about Mumford & Sons is that when they play, whether live or on their albums, you can almost *hear* the circle they might be standing in, hear the connection between the musicians, hear the music reverberating off the walls, hear that they are playing together as opposed to facing in one direction and playing off into the distance. There's an energy in their music that seems to be formed from the way the songs sound like true collaborations rather than "there's the drums, there's the vocals, here comes the guitar, here's some banjo..." And this sort of "connection" that they seem to have, musically, is even more apparent on this album.

As far as their cover of "The Boxer"- I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel and I was both super excited and super nervous to hear Mumford's take on the classic song- it's sort of one of those "holy grail" songs to me. But it's lovely version of the song- of course, it's not as epic as the original, but it has found a place on my latest playlist and if it helps expose S&G to a new generation, that would be amazing.

Bottom line- I can't stop listening to "Babel" and I don't *want* to. It's a lovely album, very moving, very clever, very sweet, all at the same time. I highly recommend it.
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on September 25, 2012
This is another great album from Mumford & Sons. I purchased the vinyl version and wanted to comment that it does come with a digital download card. This was a great relief since it doesn't mention anything of that in the description of the product. Great purchase, worth every cent.

I'll repeat again so people see it.

The vinyl of the album DOES come with a digital download code!

EDIT: the download is of a rip off the vinyl so it does include some sound flaws in it.
99 comments77 of 88 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Mumford & Sons 2012 effort Babel is easily one of the year's most anticipated efforts. A solid album overall, first time Mumford & Sons fan may enjoy Babel `better' than the most invested fans; more invested fans may pinpoint Babel as `formulaic' and `safe' rather than innovative. Arguments presented, Babel is sure-fire commercial hit that may not necessarily `progress' the band's artistry to `the next level' as expected. A superb group of musicians, as good as Babel is, it may be ever so slightly humbler than the hype.

Opener "Babel" is characterized by Mumford & Sons's `rhythmic machine' (acoustic guitar, banjo) and set in six-eight time. Ben Lovett's piano provides a chordal foundation, preempting contrast from Marcus Mumford's gritty vocals in favor of smoother, more melodic-centered vocals. "Babel" is ultimately well conceived; it ends with cliffhanging airy pad segueing into "Whispers in the Dark."

"Whispers in the Dark" possesses constant rhythmic motion throughout the verses, though it is softer allowing for Marcus's vocals to shine without strain. `Wall of sound' vocals aid in giving the record an inviting timbre, committed to folk. "Whispers" is less emotionally dynamic than "Babel" however.

"I Will Wait" receives valedictory honors easily. Highlights include supporting vocal harmonizations as well as sound vocal production overall. Songwriting is superb by all means. Add excellent pacing with an eventual fruition of production including piercing horns and "I Will Wait" seems a shoe-in for Grammy nominations (Record and/or Song of the Year).

"Holland Road" keeps Mumford & Sons on `autopilot.' The harmonic scheme is similar to "I Will Wait," while the pace is slower, a stark contrast. Mumford's vocals are emotional and sincere. Add a splash of brass and "Holland Road" is easily on the same plane as "Babel" or "I Will Wait."

"Ghost That We Knew" comes off shy of the level of the aforementioned "Babel," "I Will Wait" or "Holland Road," but delivers sound songwriting, most notably on the chorus: "So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light/Cause oh that gave me such a fright..." There is not too much to trivialize, save for some `predictability' (the unwinding ending) and length at nearly six minutes.

"Lover of the Light," takes a subtle approach prior to Mumford `letting it rip.' The melody highlights and is clearly discernible. "Lover of the Light" benefits its chorus, much like "Ghost..." did: "But love the one you hold/and I'll be your goal/to have and to hold/A lover of the light." The instrumental timbres within the production add to a list of positives. Even so, the cut is a bit lengthy.
"Lovers' Eyes" delivers a well-paced, well thought out cut. Vocal production is clear and Mumford's lead vocals sincere as he references religion, forgiveness, and love: "Cuz I feel numb beneath your tongue/your strength just makes me feel less strong/do not ask the price I pay for I must live with my quiet rage..." Mumford's overt outro seals the deal: "But I'll walk slow, I'll walk slow/take my hand, help me on my way..." As Al Green would put it, "Simply Beautiful."

"Reminder" gives the listener a simple, brief cut at 2:04. Not among the `elite,' it is a solid and lovely showing. "Hopeless Wanderer," lacks little `unpredictability' here, which hurts its cause. With the `deck of cards' revealed, this is a solid track where one desires a bit more `shake up' within the formula.

"Broken Crown" is the best of the quartet then closes Babel. Horns tighten up sound even if it follows a similar formula. "Broken Crown" lifts some "Little Lion Man" swag by dropping the f-bomb within the chorus if nothing else. "Below My Feet" delivers nothing new per say while closing cut "Not With Haste" is solid, though average compared against juggernaut "I Will Wait." The Deluxe edition tacks on three bonus cuts ("For Those Below," "The Boxer" featuring Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon, and "Where Are You Now"), bringing the total number of songs to fifteen.

Overall, Babel is a solid, enjoyable album. It could potentially land multiple Grammy nominations (just made the submission deadline), even as lofty as the coveted `Album of the Year.' That said, Babel is not necessarily `THE best album' I've personally reviewed this year, but contains the sensibilities and `cadences' of what the Recording Academy likes for sure. The biggest quibbles personally are that the band can/should take more risks instead of clinging to safety and `formulaic' means. The perceptible predictability could be easily eradicated with minor changes and `tricks.' Babel gets it done, but album no. 3 needs to `take the next step'; 3 ½ Stars.
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on September 25, 2012
This album is not bad, but it's not great either...definitely not as great as Sigh No More. The album starts incredibly strong; the first track is probably my favorite off the entire album, but after a few songs it slows down quite a bit and each song starts sounding like the last, and the question, "Is that the same banjo riff I heard in the last two songs?" inevitably creeps into the mind. Considering the long and impressive journey their first album took to reach the popularity it eventually did, the Sons had a LOT to live up to. This is a fine effort by the band, but I will admit it left me a bit underwhelmed. With that said, there are certainly some gems on this album and an overall nostalgia that make it worth picking up.
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on November 20, 2012
After a year of touring non-stop, people were afraid Mumford & Sons wouldn't be able to pull together another amazing album.

I am happy to report that this is not the case in any way. Babel's climbing crescendos and twangy banjo show that Mumford & Sons are the same great band. They've lost none of the energy that made them great upon the first hearing. Marcus Mumford belts out the lyrics with the same meaningful force.

If you're looking for more of the Mumford & Sons signature style, look no further. This is the album we've all been waiting for.
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on November 17, 2012
I can't stop listening to this album! It is so much more upbeat and uplifiting than their first album, which is great as well, but this one is in a class of its own. The lyrics are more religious than their first album, but they are fantastic, and I still can't get enough of the banjo picking! I hope these guys make it big in the US, the American music scene has been dying for a band that just performs their own good music.
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on November 19, 2012
All the intensity and all the passion we loved on the first album is in every song on this new release. I can't stop listening to it! These guys prove that there are still new ways of doing things that people will appreciate if you put your heart into it. It is as soulful and well written as the first! Carry on Fellas, we love it.
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on October 6, 2012
Millions of people adore Mumford & Sons, finding their sound to be much more than pleasant folksy tunes but rather something like a revelatory, deeply meaningful expression of passion.

When I first heard M&S, I, too, found them revelatory. It was intensely refreshing to hear popular music that has soul--so much soul that they couldn't help but to project it at the tops of their lungs. It was a desperately needed reply to the current "I don't care / we do what we want" irreverent dance-pop glitz ethos.

Many listens later, I see M&S differently. The music reliably invokes excitement but, in doing so, it finds no space for subtlety or understatement. Their roots are in Back Country bluegrass and folk -- genres that are all about stories -- but in M&S's music there are no stories. Rather, this album is a lot like U2's City of Blinding Light: Biblical imagery expressed in generic terms. A flailing attempt to capture spirituality. Or maybe just to prevent boredom. Instead of stories intended to shake and inspire, we get posturing and shouting intended to excite. After a while, all the excitement becomes exhausting and empty, not unlike the dance-pop glitz they oppose.

I believe people are starved for deeper rewards than Maroon 5 and their dance-pop contemporaries offer, and I believe that's why M&S are the top-selling musicians in the country (and by a wide margin), because they give the instant impression of heartfelt folky soulfulness. But the truth, revealed after enough listens, is that they are closer to stadium rock. To find deeper rewards, you have to look to the folk / bluegrass / celtic roots that have inspired them: Bob Dylan or Van Morrison, or even more recent acts like Ray LaMontagne or Amos Lee. Their music may not be as instantly pleasurable or exciting as M&S's, but if you give it your patience and attention, you just might find rewards that are far more precious than excitement.
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on September 26, 2012
It's not that this is a bad album - it's most certainly not. A lot of the technique and musicianship that made so many people (including me) fall in love with "Sigh No More" is here. There's a great energy to this album, and a lot of emotion. I'm not particularly bothered that there isn't much creative growth on display from their first album - after all, I really liked that album and more of the same wouldn't be a bad thing.

But something's missing, and after a few listens I think I can put my finger on it.

Quite simply, this album doesn't have the hooks that their first album had. Those little bits of melody that insinuate themselves in your brain and don't let go, the itch you can't scratch unless you listen to the song again. "Sigh No More" had hooks to spare. The title track alone had two or three of them, and nearly every song had something that stuck in your brain from the very first listen.

On this album, not so much. And instead of the ineffable magic of a good hook, the band substitutes skill, hard work, and a lot of emoting. These guys are solid pros, they don't mail it in - but a big part of the magic of first album is missing. There's still plenty to like here, but relatively speaking it's all pretty forgettable.
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on October 5, 2012
After two powerful opening tracks this album settles into a lull. One slow angsty introspective song blends into another until it become formulaic and stale.

It would probably get 2 stars but then comes The Boxer which is just a terrific cover of Simon & Garfunkel. I sat there scratching my head thinking "when you can play like this why did you put the last 10 tracks on the album?"

Hopefully in their next album they are a bit more adventurous - reduce the # of tracks and increase the variety without losing their charm.
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