Mumford and Sons is my favorite band that currently plays together (since you know John and George…can’t). So when I heard they were releasing a rock album without their signature banjo I reacted the same way you do when you see your best friend from high school the summer you return from college: you both have changed, but you try to love them despite all that because of the history you share.
My first listen of Wilder Mind, the band’s third album, has left me torn. I love it because it’s Mumford and Sons and I’m sad because it’s not the Mumford and Sons I have come to know and love. I do like that as a band they want to grow and evolve and play the music they are passionate about. And I know the more I listen to the album the more I will come to love it. This is just my first reaction listening to the tracks the first couple of times.
1. Tompkin Square Park
It is startling listening to the complete album for the first time and hearing an electric guitar opening. They are really making the differences known right from the start. However, hearing Marcus Mumford’s voice, deep and crooning is a reminder that not that much has changed; the key elements that made me fall in love with this band in the first place still remain.
Favorite line: No flame burns forever/You and I know this all too well/Most don’t even last the night
I loved “Believe” from the very first time I heard it, maybe because it was the first new Mumford song I had heard in a long time. Or maybe because I actually just like it. It manages to sound like a lot of rock/alternative songs out there today and yet there’s also nothing quite like it. I really like almost ambient sounding of the opening and how it builds.
3. The Wolf
“The Wolf” is probably my favorite of the three singles released. This is their arena song. The song with which I believe they will open many a concert with it’s sing-along lyrics and upbeat, high energy tempo. This is the song that says, “We have arrived. Here is our new sound.” It’s also the song I belt in the car with the windows down.
4. Wilder Mind
I think this is one of those songs that will grow on me the more I listen to it. It definitely isn’t “Babel” which is one of my favorite songs from their previous album and a really strong title track. It does have a nice beat though.
5. Just Smoke
I like this song. The band’s voices blend really well together and it has a rhythm that makes you want to move. The lyrics are also good for singing along. There is a lot of imagery in the album so far of weakness and being held back which is interesting.
Favorite line: I thought we were done/And young love would keep us young
Mumford and Sons always have one song with really good use of an f-bomb and this one is it. (Although nothing comes close to, “I really f*cked it up this time/Didn’t I my dear?” from “Little Lion Man.”) The guitar is strong in this one, almost sweet sounding. It complements the lyrical imagery.
Favorite lines: Yours is the face, that makes my body burn/And here is the name that our sons will learn:/Curse the beauty, curse the queen/Curse the beauty, leave me
7. Snake Eyes
“Snake Eyes” was the last single released, but it still holds up to the rest. It starts out slow and then builds with nice momentum. When I first heard it I was really just ready to hear the whole album so I didn’t actually listen to the lyrics, but really hearing them this time is adding new power to the song. I love the guitar riff at the very end (and I wish I had any kind of musical ability/knowledge so I could write more technically about it).
Favorite line: We had it tonight/Why do we always seek absolution?
8. Broad Shoulder Beasts
I love how much New York City influences this album. There are two songs with names of places (“Tompkins Square Park” and “Ditmas”) and this one name drops Manhattan itself. The song touches on such a relatable theme: being a stranger in a strange land and taking out your fear on those close to you. It evokes such strong imagery especially in the beginning.
9. Cold Arms
At first listen probably my favorite non-single song. That probably has to do with the fact that is sounds so much like the old Mumford I love with Marcus’ angelic voice leading and the rest of the band’s harmonies raising up to meet him.
Favorite lyrics: But in my cold arms/You don’t sleep/In my cold arms/Your fear beats/In my cold arms/You stay
After the last couple of slower songs I really like the energy brought back by “Ditmas.” I am getting into this new sound of theirs. Definitely a toe tapping song. I would like to see which member of the band wrote each song because I know this is the first album where they all contributed material. I bet anything this is either a Winston or Ted song since they both were going through break-ups at the time of recording.
Favorite line: Your words are empty as the bed we made
11. Only Love
There is an overwhelming sense of loneliness on this album which I think is fitting. My experience is that big cities tend to be full of people and yet extremely isolating at the same time. People yearn to make connections and this album and especially this song seems to echo that sentiment.
Favorite line: Didn’t they say that only love could win in the end
12. Hot Gates
Oh hello piano and beautiful harmonies. I can picture this song live with just four spotlights and an otherwise dark stage. A great song to close out the album (even though the deluxe version does have a live versions of the singles and “Tompkins Square Park”).
Favorite lyrics: But I will love you constantly/There’s precious little else to me/And though we cry, we must stay alive
I can’t wait to listen to Wilder Minds a thousand more times. See you at the Squamish Valley Music Festival lads! (Yes I’m driving over 1,300 miles from Los Angeles to British Columbia to see them play. And I can’t wait.)