ALBUM REVIEW: Mumford and Sons – Wilder Minds

Mellifluous: a sound that is pleasingly smooth and musical to hear. It is a wonderful word, and is quite possibly one of the most beautiful words in the English language. It is only rivalled by vellichor (the strange wistfulness of used bookstores which are somehow infused with the passage of time), and melancholy (a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause).  Coincidentally, all three of these words perfectly describe Mumford and Sons’s third studio album Wilder Mind. The album is one of great beauty shrouded by a pensive sense of wistfulness, as if it was a Romantic poet of old, obscuring its angst in flowery rhetoric, and grandiose statements.

Wilder Minds marks a crossroad in Mumford and Sons’s musical evolution journey. Their previous two albums saw them pioneering the concept of mainstream folk rock, and this quickly caught on as many bands began to copy Mumford and Sons. The genre quickly became uninspired and stagnant. It was at this point, in 2013, that the band announced that they shall be going on a hiatus. This was shortly followed by the statement that the band shall be working on a third studio album in July of 2014. What proceeded was an extended period of radio silence until the band blundered back onto the musical radar with the surprise announcement of their third studio album which was quickly followed up by the release of the lead single “Believe”.

A delicate string section undercuts “Believe” – a melancholic love song that spills over into a moment of catharsis when needling guitar work kicks in and brings the lofty, soaring moment of hopeless romanticism crashing back to the earth. This song embodies the radical change that Mumford and Sons has undergone since the release of Babel. The banjo has been packed away. The distinctive mainstream folk rock sound has vanished, and has been replaced by an entirely different sound filled with fluctuating synth tones, rising crescendos of guitars, tightly restrained percussion, and Marcus Mumford’s angelic vocals. His vocals are the only thing that has remained constant with Mumford and Sons complete overhaul of their sound. Wilder Mind is a veteran mainstream alternative rock album that would put the likes of Coldplay, The National and Snow Patrol to shame.

Mumford and Sons may have departed from their folk rock sound, and catapulted themselves into the well-trodden field of melancholic alternative rock, but their music still possesses vestiges of that old folk rock sound to which we had become accustomed. They nod politely to their roots, and to two studio albums that earned them multiple accolades, with passing whispers of folk rock influences as heard in the folksy gang-vocal chants of the chorus of “Just Smoke”. Title song, “Wilder Mind”, balances a fusion between past and present as folk-rock rhythms run amock on the song alongside shuddering bursts of electric guitar.

The song that best describes Wilder Mind is “Wolf”. It is a thunderous alternative rock anthem that is dedicated to the thrill of the chase in the old-fashioned game of courtship. It is with this passing reference that Wilder Mind lives up to the three words that I associated with the album. Its mellifluous quality is obvious in its melancholic sound, punctuated by moments of soaring beauty. It has vellichor as it is embodied by a strange sense of wistful, as if it was an elderly gentleman reflecting on the days when men wore tweed and courted ladies rather than rabidly hunting girls down with the sole desire of sex. The melancholy comes from how they pensively reflect on the concept of true love, and constantly hunt for that feeling of true love.

Many will criticise Mumford and Sons for their change in sound, but this is a step in the right direction for the band as they embark of a journey of musical evolution that will take them away from the sound that they have so comfortably nestled upon for the past eight years. Mumford and Sons have put themselves on the path to become immortalised in rock history. In 50 years, when we reflect on the progression of modern rock music,  we will come back to this particular album due to how drastically their sound changed. This is the path of greatness.

9/10

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