With a sound so distinct and success as huge as Mumford & Sons debut album Sigh No More, where on earth does a band go for its second release? The only answer, it seems, is to delve deeper, push harder and hit bigger as the London band more than succeed in pulling off the 'difficult' second album with new release, Babel.
Now free from having to make a first impression, Mumford & Sons have less to prove and more to share, as much of the whimsy of Sigh No More departs, instead replaced with darker, heavy moments of introspection. The tales are grander and the sounds bigger. There may be less radio-friendly hits on Babel, but Mumford & Sons have found their ground in stadiums in their short career, and hit singles are not the goal here.
That said, 'I Will Wait' has recently scored the band a Top Twenty hit, but it is easily the most upbeat and commercial track on the album, sounding slightly like a leftover from the band's debut. 'Hopeless Wanderer' hits similar peaks of joy, but the well paced album track takes time in hitting its climax, opting for restraint over radio-friendly progression.
It's hard to imagine tracks led by a banjo ever filling a stadium, but on Babel, Mumford & Sons achieve it with ease. Epic climaxes on 'Holland Road', 'Lover's Eyes' and album closer 'Not With Haste' will all be vying for the final track spot on the band's December tour. Meanwhile, 'Broken Crown' potentially signals the band's darkest moment, with a spine-tingling crescendo featuring lyrics 'Crawl on my belly till the sun goes down / i'll never wear your broken crown / I took the road, and I f*cked it all away'.
Bigger and bolder than Sigh No More, Babel is bursting with the sort of confidence that comes only from rocketing to one of the UK's biggest bands in just three years. Never has the banjo sounded bigger or better.