2008 saw Britain’s fast-developing craze toward London’s “new folk revival”. A ‘scene’ that supposedly brought the general British public, and folk music closer together. Bands and artists, such as Noah and the Whale, Jay Jay Pistolet, and perhaps most famously, Laura Marling, delivered acoustic songs that, not only received recognition and respect amongst music magazines, but also amongst a public usually obsessed with Akon and Girls Aloud. In truth, the “new folk revival” was nothing more than a bland imitation of Americana and indie-pop, delivered with the admirable force, of a close-knit London scene.
Throughout 2008 and early 2009, Mumford & Sons released a triplet of E.P.’s that progressed their style, and sound. Opting against a rushed album, that could have fallen prey to pigeonholing alongside last year’s bands of the minute, Mumford & Sons took the time with their debut “Sigh No More.” The twelve-track full length combines bluegrass and folk, with a rhetoric that reflects the band’s religious beliefs.
Mumford & Sons arrange folk like no British counterpart has done for a long time; bluesy soloing, and orchestral climaxes that leave you breathless and in a state of euphoria. They are ambitious in their arrangement; the dynamics between, their twee storytelling verses, catchy pop choruses, quiet middle eights, and explosive, towering crescendos, are closer to post-punk or grunge, than they are to folk.
“Sigh No More” shows a breadth of the band’s experience; they compliment their darker lyricism (“After the Storm”, “Little Lion Man”, “I Gave You All”), with the uplifting moments of pop sensibility (“The Cave”, “Winter Winds”) that create, in part an unnerving experience. Melancholia and ecstasy are substituted with one another superlatively, and the sound that transcends is warming, evocative, and inspiring.
“Sigh No More” has already been criticised as a latecomer, to a cut and paste genre of generics, and mediocrity. Yet it is in this late-coming that the band refined their sound and message (for as a folk band, a message is preferential), and this has worked incredulously well in their favour. Mumford & Sons have created the most accomplished LP, from all acts in the tabloid-entitled revival; perhaps it is fitting that frontman Marcus Mumford asks us to “awake [his] soul”, for his band has truly awakened a movement that, until this point lacked any lasting substance.