Mumford & Sons
Glassnote Records · November 16, 2018
Every time I finished the album I was left with one gesture: a shrug.
The album starts off with ‘42,’ the 42nd song released by the group, which hints at the mix of flat folk-rock songs that follow in an attempt to be multi-genre at the cost of not developing the songs’ motifs and sounds. This song transitions into the most classic Mumford & Sons song on the album, ‘Guiding Light’—an underwhelming track with inspiration driven lyrics that don’t really hold much weight.
The album takes a detour into the third song ‘Women’, a soft synth and beat-driven song with an emotional vocal performance that makes it one of my favorites on the album. The song plays into the groups’ strengths from harmonies in the bridges that fill out the song’s strong structure to the clean sounding production that makes the song sound personal. With the next song ‘Beloved,’ the strong detour has an out-of-place, underwhelming following, which is present in the tracklist way too often. The group appears to struggle with deciding what should fill the soundscape of the song, and instead went the route of throwing everything into a mess of sounds and genres. The album then reroutes to another soft song with ‘The Wild.’ Although this song sounds similar to ‘Women,’ it does not bring the same emotion or solid song-writing to the track and becomes another wild mess of genres and sounds that lead nowhere.
With ‘Slip away’ and ‘Rose of Sharon,’ I was pleasantly surprised by the more Alt-J and Glass Animals styled songs that rounded out the variety of the album while adding songs with solid songwriting. The only song on this album that really stood out to me was ‘Darkness Visible.’ It sounded like if Animal Collective were handed Arcade Fire’s rig and told to write a song. The perfectly spaced and tense song redeems the album from full flatness. But this doesn’t last long with the follow-up being another sloppy soup of sounds. Nothing about ‘If I Say’ is particularly bad but, as with many songs on the album, as they start playing into the groove of a genre they fail to develop it anywhere.
Every time I finished the album I was left with one gesture: a shrug. Nothing about this album made me want to turn it off, but nothing made me want to turn it up. The group succeeds at an acceptable backdrop album. With some strong tracks, it makes me wonder how good the album could have been if the group put the effort from their long tracklist into a more perfected group of nine to ten songs that don’t sound like badly pieced together underdeveloped songs.
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