Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More.

Let me tell you, there is one thing which has stayed true in my life for years and years, one emotion which has remained the same ever since I have conscious memories: how satisfying it is to stumble upon an album where you like every song. Where from start to finish, it seems like a work of art. Because it is! Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons has been this album for the last two months of my life. Their voices are some of the most comforting company one can keep during wintertime--full of a warm gruffness, kind of like taking a sip of hard alcohol. Burns a little on the way down, then sits nice and warm in your belly. Even though they're Brits, I always picture them in Appalachia, heartily strumming their guitars, stomping their feet, and melding their voices while sitting on an old wooden porch in the countryside next to rolling hills, a similar, yet slightly different, porch which I often envision the Avett Brothers also sitting on.

The first song I heard of Mumford & Sons was Little Lion Man, which they play on the radio quite often round these here parts, and which accordingly wins for Song With the Most Forceful And Obvious Bleeped Out F Word I've Ever Heard on the Radio. The only other song which comes to mind in this category would be Alanis crooning out, And are you thinking of me when you -bleep- her!!, back in my favorite musical decade, the 90s: When Angst Ruled the Airwaves. This classic line is definitely forceful; deadly, withering, even; but Little Lion Man's I really -bleep-ed it up this time; didn't I, my dear repeats over and over in every chorus! That is some pretty audacious radio bleeping. However, the song that really got me was when I heard The Cave for the first time.

My reaction the first time I heard it was, "Whoa, that song was badass," and this continues to be the reaction I have every single time I hear it. This song is badass. Just awesome. It also has a great opening stanza of lyrics:

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

Really, all of their lyrics, which I've only recently been really listening closely to during my hundredth or so listen of the album, are pretty great. And by "great," I mean that they are surprisingly hopeful and lovely, with any angry lyrics being delicately balanced with talk about the goodness of love and souls and stuff. Case in point in the first and title track:

Love it will not betray you,
dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free.
Be more like the man
you were made to be.

And in the hippie-ishly titled Awake My Soul:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.

Like, seriously. These dudes are all about the love and the souls.

Other highlights for me include include White Blank Page, which starts out quiet and plaintive, with the earnestly aching line, Tell me now where was my fault in loving you with all my heart?, and then builds steadily to much angrier crescendos: You did not think when you sent me to the briiiiiiiiiink; you desired my attention but denied my affeeeeeections! What a jerk, girl! Geez! The song then pauses for a moment for a long, beautifully harmonized singing of the word heart over and over, an effect which is more difficult to describe in words. But trust me, it is just lovely.

This song is followed by I Gave You All, the title of which itself continues on some of these You-Were-So-Mean-And-I'm-Still-Mad-At-You themes, and which also includes some great gems of lines, such as: How can you say that your truth is better than ours? and If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could've won. That is a great line, right there. This is actually the angriest sounding song on the record, swelling to some really good, therapeutic yelling at the end.

Then there is Timshel, full of quietness and combined voices singing You are not alone in this, as brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand, and while I don't know who or what Timshel is, I suspect that this is an exceedingly nice song, and sounds altogether touching and reassuring regardless. The highest drama of the album comes towards the middle of the next song, Thistle & Weeds; with rising piano and drums and guitars, at this point in my mind they have moved off the porch and are running through the Appalachian forest in the dark--I'm not quite sure towards what, but it would make a great movie scene, that's for sure.

Dust Bowl Dance is also some good old fashioned musical fun, the last minute of which is actually the most badass minute of the album. Then the last song, After the Storm, ends with some similarly pessimistic thoughts as started the album. Really, Mumford, and your sons, stop bumming us out with this stuff.

There will come a time you'll see
with no more tears
and love will not break your heart
but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see
what you'll find there
with grace in your heart
and flowers in your hair.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

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