The phenomenon that is Mumford and Sons is almost unexplainably strange. How did this brand new, pseudo-folk English band without even a drummer become one of the primary alternative rock acts in the mainstream United States music scene in a matter of a few months? Maybe its that Mumford and Sons have one of the most tantalizing and energetic live shows around that is instantly fan-winning. Or maybe its that with the recent successes of indie crossover bands like Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, and Phoenix have had in the mainstream, the radios are willing to market anyone with flannel shirts, acoustic guitars, and a danceable beat. Either way, Sigh No More, their debut release that came out in the UK in 2009 and in the US in early 2010, has gone from the folk-revivalist communities of London to sweep across mainstream America. What's crazy about Mumford and Sons is that it features some of the best rock anthems of the year and it would be a stretch to actually call them a rock band at all. Although they're made up of four acoustic multi-instrumentalists, a kick drum, and a tambourine, they somehow manage to fill up a space big enough for a rock stadium.
The grace and subtlety of similar bands like The Avett Brothers is all but absent here, but is replaced with an utter lack of restrain, making their frenetic banjo playing and drumming instantly accessible and satisfying. Mumford and Sons let it all hang out in self-effacing love songs like "Little Lion Man" and "The Cave" that are fueled with so much emotion and reckless abandon that stomping on a kick drum seems like the only sensible thing to do. Surprisingly, Sigh No More is also a delightfully spiritual and optimistic album that reaches for the stars and ends up in the middle of a forest of faith, doubt, God, and love. The lyrics are simple, but full of heart and honesty, just like the music that accompanies it. Especially on quieter songs such as "Timshel", where lead singer Marcus Mumford is given some space and a backing of angelic harmonies, we sit atop the canopy with Mumford and sigh no more. If you're looking for an authentic folk album, this probably isn't it. But the good part is that Mumford and Sons don't pretend to be something they're not. Sigh No More is a glowing pop/rock album that is a great example of a music that throws logic and sensibility out and instead embraces what feels good.