The most downloaded pre-order of 2012, according to iTunes, proved to be more than enough. With twelve tracks on the LP and fifteen on its deluxe version, Babel gave everyone an extra treat for being so patient.
Three years after their debut Sigh No More was released, the English quartet made sure everything was perfect for the second one. The sound that the world fell in love with in songs like ‘Little Lion Man’, ‘The Cave’, and ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ were ever-present in Babel.
Its opening, title track hits you with their familiar slams of guitar, banjo and mandolin, and Marcus Mumfords’ soulful voice makes you fall in love with the tune immediately. The blend into the follow up of the more relaxed ‘Whispers in the Dark’ keeps the rhythm, but its happier sound makes it a song that you’ll be tapping your foot to all day.
The album’s first single, ‘I Will Wait’, is filled with harmonic vocals and a rollercoaster of rises and drops that makes it a ride you want to take again and again. Its slow first chorus builds up to the well-known jump of banjo picking and up-beat guitars, which is surpassed by the anthem-like horns that back up the repeat of the romantic chorus that closes out this beautiful song.
The lead into ‘Holland Road’ doesn’t feel like a fourth track, but more like a second part to ‘I Will Wait’. With similar characteristics to the single, it gives you the feeling that the journey hasn’t ended, and is far from over.
After the rainstorm and beauty that opened the album, ‘Ghosts That We Knew’ is the calm and deeply lyrical song that brings the record down to a softer vibe. Placed gracefully afterwards is ‘Lover of the Light’. Its slow intro and ending, and its upbeat middle that includes a festival of soulful melodies, the song fits perfectly in halfway through the album. The proceeding and equally lovely ‘Lovers’ Eyes’ and ‘Reminder’ continue the trend of a flickering flame that gives you just enough light to enjoy the setting before the album bursts into flames again, with the standout track ‘Hopeless Wanderer’. The song’s ringing piano opening sets the stage for a fast chorus of guitars, and lyrics that will be stuck in your head for a while.
The next song, ‘Broken Crown’ then hits a darker edge to the album that you won’t see coming. You can almost feel the anger, but that darkness offers its own unique beauty.
With ‘Below My Feet’, the almost Shakespearean lyrics and the mountain-like build-up make the song one of the best on the album.
One of the best albums of the year closes with ‘Not With Haste’, almost in a “Thanks for listening,” fashion. The loving song gives you everything you’d expect from Mumford & Sons, but in a way that says, “We’ll be here for a while”.
The deluxe edition includes ‘For Those Below’, ‘Where Are You Now?’ and a cover of Simon & Garfunkels’ ‘The Boxer’, a song that alone is worth the extra little bit of money.