“Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons
Ever set down a glass of water then accidentally pick up a glass of something else like soda or milk and unknowingly take a sip? You know that feeling of disgust that you get at that moment, not because whatever you drank was really that gross but simply because it wasn’t what you were expecting? Ever walk into a movie that the previews made out to be a light hearted comedy, only to get some melodramatic crap that you were entirely not in the mood for? Well, if you have ever experienced either of those two situations then you will know exactly how I felt about “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons.
When I heard of the band with the cute little name “Mumford & Sons” that even boasted a mean banjo player (one of my very favorite things), I would never have expected the heavy, angsty, and quite frankly, exhausting music that was on display throughout “Sigh No More”. It’s not so much that I have an issue with heavy relatively sad music, but I do when it’s coming from a banjo laden little folk band with a goofy name. A banjo is one of the most jubilant sounding instruments I can think of, and to hear it be used to do nothing but embellish the same predictable melancholic choruses over and over and over again was saddening. I feel bad for never really being fully able to give this album a fair shake but when I see bluegrass type instruments in an indie rock context, I have a high standard and that standard is the Avett Brothers. The fun loving, rebellious Avett Brothers.
It’s not even that I dislike heavy, giganto-sized euro-folk either. “Frightened Rabbit” is one of my favorites and they specialize in just that sort of thing. The difference is that for one, Frightened Rabbit doesn’t make the music they make under the false guise of being a “roots rock” band. And secondly, Frightened Rabbit’s music just comes off as being more soulful and heartfelt. Whereas Mumford & Sons’ music often feels somewhat sterile and has some sort of separation between the audience and the musician. Kind of like the difference between eating fried chicken that someone’s grandma made vs grabbing a bucket from the Colonel. They are the same thing, but not at all. I think the main culprit that is to blame for the downfall of this album is the fact that Mumford & Sons seem to have like 8 versions of what is essentially the same song on “Sigh No More”. A lengthy burdensome intro, that picks up a little and then wham, ends in a spirited but highly calculated, full blown acoustic extravaganza with some rapid fire banjo element. Every song is kind of like going to a fireworks show, it’s gonna be kind of noisy and the best part won’t come till the very end.
When they are at their best they kind of remind you of a more hoidy toidy “fleet foxes”. There are some bright spots however. Despite being as formulaic as the rest of the album, “Awake My Soul” actually seems to have a soul to awaken. Also the single, “Little Lion Man” has redeeming characteristics, so long as you don’t take into account the fact that it is part of an album that consists of substandard replicas of itself. For me these are the stand outs on a rather dreary album created by what seem to be some promising musicians. I hate to be nationalistic but it kind of seems like you can teach a Brit how to play bluegrass instruments, but you can’t teach him how to truly understand them. This album to me is for the most part, like if Gordon Ramsay opened a soul food restaurant. Troubling.
Little Lion Man
The Cave MP3
Sigh no more – 2 out of 5