Sunday, November 1

Album Of Last Month

Mumford & Sons 'Sigh No More' (Island)

Folk, Wikipedia will have you known, was devised circa the mid-19th century as somewhat of a pastime for the working classes. Ironic then, that south-west London's reawakening of the breed some years back is about as working-class as Lady GaGa is plausible. Not that social stratum has a thing to do with Mumford & Son's long-expected debut record. Well, sure The Enemy wouldn't name their next shipment of Undertones covers 'Sigh No More', but it skilfully embraces the sorta wholehearted schmaltz and despair each and every one of us naturally endures on occasion. And that is what makes these albeit faintly rekindled chord marches from the 1800s/'Harvest'-era Neil Young so fresh and appealing.
In 'The Cave', band leader Marcus Mumford's anguish and persistence to "find strength in pain" are doused with pure sincerity. Heck, come away from it short of a Kleenex wetter than the Yangtze and count yourself soulless. 'Winter Winds', though, prides itself on alike neurotic-about-love sentiments but via what sinks in as the thewy banjos and organs of a Leonard Cohen-staunch orchestra. Heartening, to put it mildly.
Good M&S devotees will already be wise to the staggering 'Roll Away Your Stone', 'White Blank Page' and the timeless euphony, buoyant refrain and gutsy drift of 'Little Lion Man'. All of which makes 'Thistle & Weeds' so much more stupefying. "Spare me your judgements and spare me your dreams, 'cause recently mine have been tearing my seams... Rain down, rain down on me," a forsaken Mumford whispers over an almost as-solitary guitar line. Again, it's his/their lost-yet-dogged thinking that prolongs 'Sigh No More'. Discounting the existing hyperbole of electro to boot, this bears on every era since the Mesozoics were knockin' about. It's real, it's honest, it's just wondrous.
Later comes 'Dustbowl Dance', whose poignant keys and piecemeal build into a 'Fix You'-kinda mélange marks the LP's strongest track. Closing is 'After The Storm', in which Mumford declares, "And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears... With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair". Whether or not the latter ditty is a direct allusion to Florence Welch's tresses it's hard to confirm, but really this track is the only fitting way to finish off proceedings - Utter optimism.
So then. Minus one or two obscure and unforgivable remarks of "God", Mumford & Sons have simply made one of the most exquisite records of the decade. The biggest occurrence to supervene on pop music in the year 2009? This is it.

Best Track
'Dustbowl Dance'