by Claire Barley
Everyone’s favourite banjo-wielding gents Mumford & Sons have just released their third album, Wilder Mind. Following their ‘Babel tour’ of 2013, the band took a five month breather before reuniting to record this latest LP.
It’s hard not to roll an eye upon reading the “this album is different to the previous ones” press release. Duh. It’s not like you released the last album with a new cover. Isn’t it unavoidable an artist’s style will develop over the course of their career? (Just ask Kings of Leon.) [For better or for worse, Claire? – Ed.]
Self-indulgent writer complaints aside, even from first listen, Wilder Mind is noticeably different from Mumford & Sons of old. Refusing to be pigeonholed, the band has stripped off their trademark on-trend, beard-folk polish. What’s been revealed is a bunch of well-written and pleasant songs. While lacking the band’s usual trademarks and originality, the release is nonetheless polished and very easy to listen to.
The first single ‘Believe’, unlike its predecessors, is not a foot-stomping, banjo-banger. It’s much softer, benefiting from a slow build and unashamedly sentimental lyrics. On the whole, the album is softer and sweeter than their previous LPs. The soaring crescendo chorus is still present- see Tompkins Square Park, The Wolf and Ditmas- with Marcus Mumford’s warm vocals providing some familiarity to what is, overall, a new sound.
The unabashedly sentimental lyrics might seem generic and the album has been criticised for lacking creativity. Perhaps it’s my recently farewelled, angst-filled adolescence talking but the lyrics have an honesty to them which is touching rather than boring. One man’s “commonplace and predictable” is another’s “broad enough to be sung to during any situation of heartbreak”.
“I know what’s on your mind, god knows I put it there”
“…perhaps I will come of age and be ready for you”
If that’s not a poetic goldmine to any heartbroken hipster, I don’t know what is.
Another success of Wilder Mind is all four musicians leant a hand in writing it, it’s the band’s “most collaborative [release] to date”. Unlike those occasions where a band tries a more democratic writing approach and it backfires horribly (The Strokes’ Angles, anyone?), themes remain cohesive.
On the whole, Wilder Mind is an enjoyable album. It doesn’t really break any new ground, but is unlikely to offend anyone (except perhaps the banjo, he’s probably feeling a bit rejected). What remains to be seen is whether this new sound will excite fans as much as their previous releases have.
2.5 / 5
Wilder Mind is out now via Universal Music.