Mumford and Sons "Wilder Mind"

Mumford & Sons jettison acoustic arrangements for arena rock production

There’s no point in denying evolution, the evidence is there in every song. Banjo, double bass, mandolin, Dobro, and accordion have been sloughed-off, giving way to new instrumental diversity – lots of electric guitars, synthesizer, and orchestral arrangements. According to Ben Lovett the change in sound is more of a natural progression than a drastic change, but for those fans devoted to the origin of the sound, it may come as a shock. The acoustic romp of Babel and Sigh No More is replaced by propulsive rock, but listen closely enough and you’ll notice shared traits between those albums and Wilder Mind.

The band ditched Markus Dravs, producer of their first two albums, replacing him with James Ford, overseer of albums from The Artic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine. Also chipping in his dark two-cents is associate producer Aaron Dessner of The National. Ford adds a session drummer to the recordings and occasionally takes on percussion duties for a more muscular beat than offered by Marcus Mumford on earlier albums. The band’s progression is apparent with the opening track. “Tompkins Square Park” rolls out on a bed of Coldplay-esque synthesized production that builds to ringing guitar crescendo and a cacophony of strings. “Believe” only enhances the Coldplay comparisons. Track three, “The Wolf” bears witness to the fossil of Mumford’s former self – the wild energy is released, but instead of banjo gone wild it’s now a chorus of electric guitars. The band settles down for the title track, allowing for more focus on lyrical content. “Just Smoke” is full of big hooks and  sing-a-long-choruses. “Broad-Shouldered Beasts” features dramatic orchestral flourishes, ala Elbow. “Cold Arms” offers a rare chance to experience Mumford’s balladeer chops. Accompanied only by a strummed electric guitar the song balances on his raspy croon.

Marcus Mumford’s lyrics and vocals have been the heart of this band’s songs and that gene has not changed. Rugged and desperate at times, his vocals convey a young man’s struggle with sorrow and self-doubt. Now that Coldplay has announced its intent to call it quits Mumford and Sons appear to be their progeny, poised to take the role of sensitive gladiator in the rock arena.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)