Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2010 release from the West London Indie Rock quartet. Mumford & Sons, have created a gutsy, old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills & Nash with the might of Kings Of Leon and the harmonies of Fleet Foxes. Sigh No More was recorded at Eastcoast Studios and produced by Markus Dravs who has worked with such superstar acts as Arcade Fire, Bjork and Peter Gabriel. Formed in 2007, the band's goal since day one has been to make music that matters.
Sigh No More is the debut studio album by London-based folk-rock quartet Mumford & Sons. It was released on October 5, 2009 in the UK, and on February 16, 2010 in the United States and Canada. The album entered the UK Albums Chart at #11 on 11 October and has so far peaked at #3 on 10 October 2010, precisely a year after it first entered the chart. The album also reached #1 in Australia, after spending 17 weeks previously in the charts, and has been certified double platinum there. On the 5th March 2010 the album certified Platinum in the UK. In mid-2010, it was rated the year-to-date's 8th best record on NPR's All Songs Considered. On 20 July 2010, it was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, awarded annually for the best album in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The award was given to The xx's self-titled album.
"An album chock full of gorgeous remorse - and it's bursting at the seams... Mumford & Sons have no reason on to apologize on Sigh No More - this is a killer debut." -Paste
"Having paid their dues the old-fashioned way as the (superb) on-off backing band for Marling in 2007/08, Sigh No More sees four-piece Mumford and Sons strike out for equally distinctive territory, carving out a mostly winning – if nigglingly naive – debut that deserves an audience to match its impressive convictions. It’s a record deploying a wealth of folk signifiers, from banjos and sighing mandolins to dubious lyrics about how the harvest left no fruit for you to eat, but which in truth shares more genes with the bombastic song progressions of Arcade Fire or even Kings of Leon’s grit ‘n’ shine indie anthemics... time’s on the side of these barely 20-something hayseeds, and with a little more ballast to temper their flightier moments, they should go on to fine things indeed." -BBC Music
‘Sigh No More’ is a fine debut from a band that’s patiently picked up the tools of its trade, and chosen the right moment to give them full rein." -NME
"Although you'd probably never guess it from listening to Mumford & Sons' debut LP, Sigh No More, the entire band hails from West London. Yet these four gentlemen manage to tap into the fabled Old, Weird America better than their ballyhooed American counterparts Kings of Leon and the Avett Brothers. Beyond superficial measures like employing banjo, mandolin, and double-bass, Mumford & Sons appear to have a Masters' level education in and appreciation for American roots music traditions, not to mention that they can whip-up a barnstorming hoedown like it's nobody's business. Therein lies a major part of their appeal and power: they treat the banjo like a Stratocaster.
While it's easy to focus on the Americana aspects of the band's music, that's not the full extent of their arsenal. The banjo-led stomps are plentiful for sure, but there are also healthy doses of baroque pop and cathartic indie rock that echo Arcade Fire and Frightened Rabbit. That comparison extends to lyrics as well. Like Win Butler and Scott Hutchinson, Marcus Mumford has a tendency to emote forcefully and earnestly. When the stunning title track's claim of "Love that will not betray you / Dismay or enslave you / It will set you free" comes barreling at you, there's not a moment to roll your eyes. You simply submit to the rush.
"Awake My Soul" shows that Mumford is also capable of Waitsian lyrical gems: "In these bodies, we will live / In these bodies, we will die / Where you invest your love, you invest your life". The song is a definite highlight, but almost every song on Sigh No More sounds fit to be a killer single. Case in point: they've absolutely blown-up in their native England with singles "Winter Winds", "The Cave", and, especially, "Little Lion Man". With the rapidly increasing popularity of the aforementioned Kings of Leon and Avett Brothers, it's natural to assume that Mumford & Sons could experience similar success here in the States. Not that I'm holding my breath.
If I had to place a bet on the Mumford song that will fare best with American ears, my money's on "The Cave", a song that distills Ralph Stanley, the Band, and Arcade Fire into a transcendent anthem with a chorus tailor-made for karaoke: "But I will hold on hope / And I won't let you choke / On the noose around your neck / And I'll find strength in pain / And I will change my ways". Yes, that all looks terribly trite written down, but in the context of song's thrust, it just works (as these things often do). The fact of the matter is that Sigh No More is an album meant to be sung along to - loudly and shamelessly.
Sigh No More inspires evangelism through sheer force of will. Between Mumford's gripping wail and the Sons' whirlwind revelries, it's a revival hard to resist. It's not a flawless record, but it does a damn good job of making you look the other way. The more I listen to this album, the more I realize that it's teflon-coated against cynicism. Mumford's platitudes would normally grate on me, but they're surprisingly easy to forgive when they're being howled over the Sons' locomotive folk-rock. Like another celebrated Londoner before him, Mumford obviously realizes the vital importance of being earnest." - PopMatters
"London's nu-folk scene has turfed up surprises as unlikely as they've been refreshing of late. First we had Laura Marling, displaying a poise and unnerving command of her material that called to mind the best of the 70s troubadour tradition. Then there was Johnny Flynn's earthy erudition, steeped as it was in folk's mystical lexicon. And this year Noah & The Whale reconciled their twee approach with a newly-whetted pop savvy and broader sonic palette, transforming into a major-league concern in the process.
Having paid their dues the old-fashioned way as the (superb) on-off backing band for Marling in 2007/08, Sigh No More sees four-piece Mumford and Sons strike out for equally distinctive territory, carving out a mostly winning - if nigglingly naive - debut that deserves an audience to match its impressive convictions. It's a record deploying a wealth of folk signifiers, from banjos and sighing mandolins to dubious lyrics about how the harvest left no fruit for you to eat, but which in truth shares more genes with the bombastic song progressions of Arcade Fire or even Kings of Leon's grit 'n' shine indie anthemics.
As such, the title-track builds into head-spinning panorama like the ones that greet photogenic tourists reaching a Highland summit in a Scottish tourist board ad - but the view's secondary to the transcendent feeling it evokes. It's a fist-pumping formula realised undoubtedly in part through Arcade Fire and Maccabees veteran Markus Drav's production work, and while much of Sigh No More sounds impressively big as a result - Little Lion Man and Thistle & Weeds are especially massive - it also leaves the band open to sounding portentous when the tunes aren't up to snuff. I Gave You All is one such howler, singer Marcus Mumford's vocal howling its impotent rage at a bothersome ex. Hell might hath no fury like a folkie scorned, but do the results have to sound quite so much like JJ72 cast-offs?
Still, no matter: time's on the side of these barely 20-something hayseeds, and with a little more ballast to temper their flightier moments, they should go on to fine things indeed." - BBC
Rolling Stone (p.74) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Mumford's desperation, elevated in TNT dynamics, can be thrilling..."
Paste (magazine) - "The unashamedly universal themes are matched by the group's booming sound and imagery that stretches out over space and time."
Clash (magazine) - "Soul-stirring and for much of the time uplifting, the bangs of their banjo and euphoric bluegrass beats make this lot's trade seem untouchable..."
Personnel: Duchess Nell Catchpole (violin, viola); Christopher Allan (cello); Nick Etwell (trumpet, flugelhorn); Pete Beachill (trombone).
Audio Mixer: Ruadhri Cushnan.
Recording information: Eastcote Studios, London.
Photographer: Max Knight .
Arranger: Mumford & Sons.
English folk outfit Mumford & Sons' full-length debut owes more than a cursory nod to bands like the Waterboys, the Pogues, and the Men They Couldn't Hang. The group's heady blend of biblical imagery, pastoral introspection, and raucous, pub-soaked heartache may be earnest to a fault, but when the wildly imperfect Sigh No More is firing on all cylinders, as is the case with stand-out cuts like "The Cave," "Winter Winds," and "Little Lion Man," it's hard not to get swept up in the rapture. Like their London underground folk scene contemporaries Noah & the Whale, Johnny Flynn, and Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons' take on British folk is far from traditional. There's a deep vein of 21st century Americana that runs through the album, suggesting a healthy diet of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Blitzen Trapper, and Marah. That melding of styles, along with some solid knob-twiddling from Arcade Fire/Coldplay producer Markus Dravs, helps to keep the record from completely sinking into the quicksand of its myriad slow numbers -- tracks like "I Gave You All," "Thistle & Weeds," and "After the Storm" are pretty and plain enough, but they neuter a band this spirited. Sigh No More is an impressive debut, but one that impresses more for its promise of the future than it does its wildly inconsistent place in the present. ~ James Christopher Monger
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