On their eagerly anticipated second album 'Babel', British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons resolutely stick to the rootsy sound that made them a household name
MUMFORD & SONS/BABEL
Over the past a few years, there have been a handful of indie bands/artists who have managed to successfully cross over to the mainstream. Alongside Arcade Fire, the Black Keys and Foster the People, London four-piece Mumford & Sons became known the world over for their stomping blend of folk and blues, earnest lyricism and a healthy use of banjo and mandolin. Their highly acclaimed first single, Little Lion Man, oozes irresistible rustic charm and exuberance, and frankly, who could ever forget the confessional punch line that goes: ''I really f**ked it up this time, didn't I my dear?''
The band's buzz-worthy second single The Cave, plus their win at the 2011 Brit Awards (best album for Sigh No More) has further cemented their reputation as the go-to indie folk band of this generation.
With Sigh No More's overwhelming critical and commercial success comes great responsibility _ that ever-present pressure suffered by all bands and artists to outdo their debut. After intensive touring and headlining at big-name festivals, the bluegrass quartet, comprising Marcus Mumford, Country Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane, mark their return with a 15-track second album allegorically titled Babel.
As soon as we press play, the first few seconds of the opening title track has us executing a mental double take, frantically checking whether it was the right album we put on (it was). The strumming intro of Babel sounds dangerously similar to that of Little Lion Man. Fortunately, though, as the song progresses it manages to hold its own, morphing into a stimulating anthem. With much conviction, frontman Marcus Mumford howls: ''Like the city that nurtured my greed and my pride/I stretch my arms into the sky/I cry Babel! Babel! Look at me now/Then the walls of my town, they come crumbling down.''
The boisterous merge of mandolin and banjo continues on the Whispers in the Dark and first single, I Will Wait. And from this point up to the end of the record, the lads decide to slow things down significantly (the only exception being the ferocious Hopeless Wonderer) with a slew of contemplative ballads including Holland Road, Ghosts That We Knew, Lover of the Light and Lovers' Eyes. While it may seem to lapse into folk music's perfunctory campfire repertoire, it's still fair to say that the album's second half serves as a refreshing intervention after all the romp and frolic of the first.
Since Sigh No More, we've learned that Mumford and company never take their lyrics lightly. Likewise, Babel tackles its contents head-on with thoughtful songwriting.
Added to that is the band's tried-and-tested musical arrangement that builds on the acoustic foundation before blazing into a rollicking flourish of folk instrumentation. With that said, this record works more as an extension to the group's debut rather than improving or expanding on it _ not such great news if you're expecting to hear a new sound. Those that haven't been able to get over Sigh No More, though, jump on in.
Yellow Fang/ Unreal
Last week we raved about the Thai indie duo Scrubb's new single; this week we're switching teams and siding with Yellow Fang, a teaming of three female indie rockers who have just released a new tune for their fans to salivate over. A staple of Thailand's indie circuit, the trio are known for their brand of fuzzed-out, lo-fi garage rock that recalls those lazy, summery days we're all yearning for. After playing at local and international festivals and opening for indie outfits such as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls, the ladies return with Unreal, a mid-tempo number about the search for something that doesn't actually exist. It's catchy and accessible even to those who aren't normally into guitar music.
One of the hardest working women in pop music has unveiled her latest single, Diamonds, a preview to her upcoming seventh studio album (has it been that many already?). Penned by Aussie singer/songwriter Sia, who's has been on everyone's lips lately since her stellar collaborations with people including David Guetta and Flo Rida, the track offers a more optimistic, laid-back flavour than what the Bajan diva usually presents us with. ''Find light in the beautiful sea/I choose to be happy/You and I, you and I/We're like diamonds in the sky,'' she sings of the brighter side of a relationship for a change.
AlunaGeorge/ Your Drums, Your Love
Made up of Aluna Francis and George Reid, London duo AlunaGeorge fuse the smoothness of R&B with the warped-ness of UK garage as evidenced by their first single, You Know I Like It, and, now, Your Drums, Your Love. Riding on a woozy production courtesy of Reid, Francis delivers her mellow R&B pop vocals: ''I've been treading water for your love/Whether I sink or swim/It's you I'm thinking of.'' If you're familiar with the kind of sparse electronic sound created by artists like James Blake and Jamie Woon, this song doesn't trail too far behind-with an added slice of catchiness that will inspire a replay.
Crystal Castles/ Wrath of God
Ahead of their third studio album III, the Canadian electronica duo follow up the previously-released harrowing single Plague with Wrath of God, a three-minute trip into the minds of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath. Straddling between rave and trance, the song screams Crystal Castles with the group's trademark glitchy noise and Glass yelling something unintelligible in the background. In the middle of all that's going on, the track still manages to offer us mortals haunting, yet ethereal listening experience. III is due for release next month.
Example/ Say Nothing
UK electronic artist Elliot Gleave, aka Example, releases another club anthem Say Nothing from his upcoming fourth studio outing, The Evolution of Man. The song kicks off with a synth-filled intro, strictly sticking to Gleave's signature electro-pop sound, before predictably erupting into an arena-sized chorus where he sings: ''You don't have to say nothing, say nothing/'Cos your eyes do the talking.'' Not wholly inspiring, but Gleave makes up for it by dishing out his signature slick verses (yes, the man raps too). At least that's something neither David Guetta nor Calvin Harris will ever be able to do.
About the author
Writer: Chanun Poomsawai