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Andy Whitman

Mumford & Sons

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Anyone familiar with these folks? Their debut album Sigh No More was released earlier this week. I haven't heard it yet, but I'm curious to hear some thoughts from anyone who has. Loosely affiliated with Brit trad revival/nouveau folkie artists such as Johnny Flynn, Laura Marling, and Noah and the Whale, Mumford and Sons have put out a couple EPs over the last few years that have impressed me. There's a raw and plaintive quality to lead singer/songwriter Marcus Mumford's songs, as well as some fairly overt Christian imagery. Accordions, trumpets, banjos, and the gospel. What's not to like? But I'd like to hear some reports of the new album before I spend my hard-earned cash. Anyone?

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Hadn't heard of them before so you got me interested. You can get some comments on the album here (along with a YouTube video of "Little Lion Man") and from amazon.co.uk buyers here.

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Saw Mumford & Sons last year when they opened for Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling. I thought they were great - a rootsy, more rustic, less precious, uptempo version of Damien Rice type stuff. They were really unassuming, humble and fun, with great four part harmonies and some songs that spun into mini hoedowns. Then they came out as Laura Marling's backing band. They had zero merch at the show (I would have bought whatever music they had to sell).

Through blogs and something called Rawrip (a legal mp3 site) I've culled about 8-10 songs and I really like them.

Has the album been released in the U.S.? I thought it was UK only at this point.

I'd recommend it highly - can't wait to pick it up.

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The album is over-produced, and gets a little predictable after a while. But 2.1 is just stingy and joyless. 'Sigh no more' would be worth some celebratory prose on its own, even if the rest of the album fell completely flat. This only confirms my belief that assigning numbers to music in the hope that it says something about that music is a terrible, terrible idea. It assumes that everything is sort of laid out in a line, with the good things at one end, the bad things at the other. That the difference between things is merely one of degree. People don't give their children ratings out of ten, do they? WE HAVE EATEN OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.

Anyway... I quite like the album, and listen to it without thinking too much about its (rather obvious and uninteresting) weaknesses.

Edited by stu

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The album is over-produced, and gets a little predictable after a while. But 2.1 is just stingy and joyless. 'Sigh no more' would be worth some celebratory prose on its own, even if the rest of the album fell completely flat. This only confirms my belief that assigning numbers to music in the hope that it says something about that music is a terrible, terrible idea. It assumes that everything is sort of laid out in a line, with the good things at one end, the bad things at the other. That the difference between things is merely one of degree. People don't give their children ratings out of ten, do they? WE HAVE EATEN OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.

Anyway... I quite like the album, and listen to it without thinking too much about its (rather obvious and uninteresting) weaknesses.

I agree on all counts, but I find your comments about ratings a little amusing. Paste tried to do away with ratings a while back. and the rank and file (3 out of 5 human stars) were up in arms. We can't have a music magazine that doesn't rate music! One star for you, Paste! So Paste went back to rating albums. Unlike Pitchfork's 10-point scale, Paste uses a 100-point scale, which makes them ten times better than Pitchfork.

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I recently had to mark a whole pile of first year undergrad exams in religious studies. My method was simple, it was to correlate numbers with my emotional response to the exam essays. If I just felt sort of flat, confirmed in my pessimism, then I gave a 2:2. Slightly relieved, with glimmers of happiness; a 2:1. Distinctly unhappy, the beginnings of disgust; a 3rd.

On the rare occasions I felt a little jolt of life and gratitude; a 1st.

Anger, scorn, contempt, the urge to say "Raca"; fail.

I am not joking about this, this is how I mark essays. It's madness.

(slightly, off topic... sorry)

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Suddenly two thirds of the people I know are full of boundless praise for Mumford and Sons. It's okay with me. I like the album, and I'm always happy to find myself, at this late date, aligned with the tattooed kids. But I'm curious to know what happened. It seems to me that I heard this music about a year ago, And now -- as in the past month -- seemingly everyone I know has experienced a Mumford and Sons epiphany. This is a band that has indeed "gone viral" (I hate that phrase; it makes me want to throw up and/or visit the doctor), and friends are telling friends who are telling friends about this "great new band." Does anyone know what might have happened? Are M&S played on the radio? Castaway holding CD on Lost? I really don't know because I don't follow these things. Has anyone else seen this, or is this a phenomenon limited to hip, tattooed Christians in Ohio?

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Suddenly two thirds of the people I know are full of boundless praise for Mumford and Sons. It's okay with me. I like the album, and I'm always happy to find myself, at this late date, aligned with the tattooed kids. But I'm curious to know what happened. It seems to me that I heard this music about a year ago, And now -- as in the past month -- seemingly everyone I know has experienced a Mumford and Sons epiphany. This is a band that has indeed "gone viral" (I hate that phrase; it makes me want to throw up and/or visit the doctor), and friends are telling friends who are telling friends about this "great new band." Does anyone know what might have happened? Are M&S played on the radio? Castaway holding CD on Lost? I really don't know because I don't follow these things. Has anyone else seen this, or is this a phenomenon limited to hip, tattooed Christians in Ohio?

Couldn't agree more. Of course, I'm in Indianapolis area, so the Midwest could be the common bond, but from Facebook postings to people asking me at church whether or not I've interviewed these guys to whether i've heard them, it's been a bit strange.

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They play on a few songs (or all the album? I don't know, the booklet is quite poorly annotated) on Laura Marling's second album, I Speak Because I Can. The latter being one of my favorites of the year already, it's even better than her first, brilliantly produced, with dynamics and shades, in a perfect unity of tone. And these vocals, oh my.

Edited by Hugues

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They play on a few songs (or all the album? I don't know, the booklet is quite poorly annotated) on Laura Marling's second album, I Speak Because I Can. The latter being one of my favorites of the year already, it's even better than her first, brilliantly produced, with dynamics and shades, in a perfect unity of tone. And these vocals, oh my.

Yes, Mumford and Sons are Laura's backing band on I Speak Because I Can. And I agree that it's a wonderful album. Laura's debut album was fine, and showed a lot of promise, but that promise is really fulfilled on the new one. As I've noted before, a lot of female singers merge together in my mind. It's the Generic-Chick-Singer/Songwriter sound that Paste champions so frequently. But Laura's voice stands out in the best ways. It's soulful, and full of character. And she's a terrific songwriter, too, exhibiting a maturity and an understanding of nuance that is far beyond her 20 years. She's very good now. And she has a chance to be one of the great ones.

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"Awake My Soul", off of their "Sigh No More" was featured in the final few minutes of Monday's "Lone Star" premiere. Made me want to buy the album, but not necessarily to keep watching "Lone Star".

I buy like one album every two years. More because I'm a cheapskate. But then today I tried Pandora, and I may be sated for awhile.

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I don't get the hype on this one.

I like the lyrics but it sounds too much like the musical marriage of Glen Hansard and The Avett Brothers (artists whom I both like) to be worth the attention.

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Is it possible or acceptable to loathe a band based off their followers? Without hearing a full-song I already find the band loathsome based simply off how intense their groupies are.

OK. That was an exaggeration. I simply don't know much about the group and I'm finding the slobbering love bestowed to be intriguing. Mumford & Sons must be onto something to capture this type of devotion amongst such a large segment of a population. In my circles, the response people have to them remind me of just before John Mayer broke crazy big. And although the numbers of devotees don't match, the type of devotion reminds me of circa 1997/1998 Dave Matthews Band type of devotion. It's intense.

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Is it possible or acceptable to loathe a band based off their followers? Without hearing a full-song I already find the band loathsome based simply off how intense their groupies are.

Me... I'm sure the fault is mine, I just can't stand their music.

I've listened to Sigh No More through three times, sifting it for something that will tell me why so many of my friends love them.

Every song sounds the same to me. The band seems to know two or three tricks. And they play those tricks incessantly. The lead singer's got a an unusual, whiny edge to his voice that lacks enough range to be interesting (he makes me miss Adam Duritz, which is saying something). They love to down-shift, and then floor the accelerator (quieting down, and then exploding into a Mad Folk Music Strumming euphoria!) over and over again. They love to shift from one lead vocal to a huge Fleet Foxes chorus of voices (usually in tandem with the quieting down and roaring back).

And when they land on a lyric they like, they repeat it over and over and over...

Their lyrics sound like "folky dialect" translations of an adolescent's attempt to sound profound. And they lean heavily on obvious, thudding rhymes.

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes

I struggle to find any truth in your lies

And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know

My weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all

But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall

Lend me your eyes I can change what you see

But your soul you must keep, totally free

I'd rather listen to Switchfoot than these guys.

I'm baffled that they're so involved with Laura Marling. As an artist, she's in another league altogether.

Edited by Overstreet

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I like Mumford & Sons. Most of my top-10 albums were made in the 1990s but Sigh No More is definitely in there. I don't really like "Little Lion Man" which I think is their biggest hit but for the most part I like the music and the lyrics.

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I think they're okay. I don't really react particularly negatively when I hear the music, but neither do I dissolve into paroxysms of unbridled, slobbering praise, which is what seems to happen when people with tattoos encounter the album. I guess I'm with Kyle. I'd be much more positively inclined toward this band if I hadn't encountered their rabid followers.

I can actually see the parallels to John Mayer, Coldplay, or Dave Matthews Band. The followers just ruin it for me. They've hyped the thoroughly okay.

The rhymes remind me of Vineyard worship songs, which I encounter every week. I'm betting that the new album, out in a few months, will feature some "loss/cross" and "grace/face" couplets.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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The rhymes remind me of Vineyard worship songs, which I encounter every week. I'm betting that the new album, out in a few months, will feature some "loss/cross" and "grace/face" couplets.

Just wanted to chime in with my favorite couplet from my hard rock / heavy metal days: "pain/rain."

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Pain/rain is a good one, definitely. The Cure took it to it's logical conclusion, I think, in 'From the edge of the deep green sea':

it's always the same

wake up in the rain

head in pain

hung in shame

a different name

same old game

love in vain

and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles

away from home again...

There must be about four Cure songs with the line 'it's always the same' in.

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Pain/rain is a good one, definitely. The Cure took it to it's logical conclusion, I think, in 'From the edge of the deep green sea':

it's always the same

wake up in the rain

head in pain

hung in shame

a different name

same old game

love in vain

and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles

away from home again...

There must be about four Cure songs with the line 'it's always the same' in.

Not quite the logical conclusion. It's missing the blood stain in the Ukraine.

The "pain/rain" couplet has also made it into approximately 14,572 Vineyard songs. I go insane.

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I like 'em, even though I agree with many of the criticisms Overstreet noted. Yes, many--but not all--of the songs on the album use the "quiet intro-LOUD CHORUS-quiet verse-LOUD OUTTRO" formula. And yes, many of the rhymes are clunky. But cut them a little slack. They're young, idealistic whipper-snappers and this is their first major label album. Once they learn the beauty of restraint and refine their lyrical skills, I think they have potential.

I saw somewhere that Sigh No More is one of the top-selling albums of 2011, and considering that the rest of the list was all Lady Gaga and rap and hip hop, I thought that was pretty cool.

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Count me in the camp that likes them, too. I guess I just don't run in the right hipster circles, but I never ran across any super-annoying maniac fans. I think I introduced them to some friends who like county-folk-bluegrass tinged things.

I wouldn't have called them album of the year, but there's some good talent, earnest lyrics (even if a little clunky occasionally). I personally think some of the non-singles are their strongest tracks: Thistle & Weeds and Winter Winds are two of my personal favorites.

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So, a couple weeks into the new album (Babel), and no response? Amazing. And you people call yourselves Chrsitians.

For what it's worth, I want to like these guys. They come from my church tradition, they drop the occasional f-bomb (one of the Articles of Faith in my church tradition), and they sing about Jesus, kinda. But I'll confess that I'm underwhelmed. I don't dislike them, and I'm generally a fan of the rowdy folk music they make. But I can't get past the lyrics, which are often riddled with cliches and painful, forced rhymes, and are occasionally impenetrable.

The most interesting part of the Mumford and Sons phenomenon to me is the critical backlash currently underway. I haven't encountered a band this adored and reviled since Nickelback. I wish I could care more about the songs.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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