There have been a few musicians with albums I’ve spent months anticipating (e.g. fun’s Some Nights, every Rocket Summer, Death Cab, and Noah and the Whale album ever made, Ingrid Michaelson’s Human Again, Feist’s Metals, among others). I’ll write their album release dates in my calendar and push aside time during my day to hunt down a copy of the album, a real paper and plastic and whatever CDs are even made of copy, one that I can hold in my hands, tear the clear film off of, and immediately blast through the speakers of my car. I read the CD booklet too, every word of it. I read the musicians’ thank you note, their dedications, every line of every lyric, and even the list of producers musicians and the instruments they each played on various songs throughout the album. I love it all, and that’s why I insist on having a hard copy of some of the music I buy. And some part of me thinks the musicians will receive more money from the real thing, which is pretty unlikely, but I keep buying them anyways. I’m also a shameless album art addict. Someone makes that stuff, you know. Someone carefully considers how the music can be best accompanied in visual form, and you get to hold it in your hands, flip through it over and over again if you’d like, and keep it as a little piece of the magic. I love it all.
That being said, I took my short lunch break to snag a copy of Mumford and Son’s Babel, as it came into the world today, bringing some of the most beautiful and powerful music with it. Hunting down a copy was absolutely no trouble and I’m extremely happy to be one of the many fans that dished out a much smaller chunk of change than it’s worth for this fantastic piece of music. I revelled in those perfect first moments of hearing music I had been waiting for, and Babel didn’t disappoint even a bit. From the opening piece and title track “Babel,” you get a really good sense of what the album brings. And if you’re looking for emotionally committed and precise vocals or upbeat, steals-your-heart banjo-picking, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Mumford has a sound that builds and builds and builds, but just when you think you’ve found the top and you’re ready to descend, they keep you there, they sustain that moment just a little too long and in the very best way. Because I am my mother’s daughter, I think Paul Simon is brilliant. It’s worth it to spring for the extended edition of the album just for the band’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” which features Mr. Simon himself. It’s crazy good, people. I wish I had more eloquent words, but I don’t. I read a few reviews this morning before I had listened to the album, one of which discusses the way this album feels much more polished and calculated musically than their debut album Sigh No More, considering the things the band sacrificed musically in making this decision, and how it takes away some of the rawness and grit of their sound that made it so powerful and beautiful. She writes, “Babel feels like suddenly reconnecting with the adult version of someone you fell in love with in his or her angsty teenage years: Some of the exasperating impulsiveness has faded, and with it, some of its messy, unpredictable charm.” This captures how I feel about Babel almost perfectly, except I would extend the metaphor to say that sometimes you find yourself falling in love with this new, older, refined version even more than you did before. And in this case, I really love every bit of it.
I think you should give Mumford and Son’s Babel a listen to, even if you weren’t crazy about there first album. It’s really incredible. If you don’t feel the same way or if you think Mumford and Sons is an overrated band whose music is mediocre at best, feel free to comment and tell me why. Sometimes I need a little reality check from this blind bliss that comes from a new musical relationship.
And if you love music and love talking about music, I’m up for it anytime, any day, always and forever.