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Tune In: Mumford and Sons’ Wilder Mind
May 20, 2015
Forget all that you associate with Mumford & Sons, whether it be their distinguished rendition of the folk genre or Winston Marshall’s tasteful banjo strums.
It’s not surprising when artists take a 180 degree turn on their style to experiment and expand their dynamics as performers. However, new isn’t always the best change. In their gamble, Mumford & Sons have lost more than they have gained.
The band’s campaign of their third album, “Wilder Dreams,” pushes forth a face-lift as the concept: acoustic, folk-country-indie hybrid vibes no more. Welcome a radio friendly, rocked out Mumford & Sons. A new album, a new style.
“Wilder Dreams” has the band donning leather jackets and slick pairs of pants, casting aside straw hats and overalls. All traces of indie-folk and endearing banjo strums have been eliminated. In its place, electronica and synthesizers brought by producers James Ford (Artic Monkeys) and Aaron Dessner (the National) play up the alternative rock. A new approach aside, the British ensemble continues to channel an Americana vibe that is more prominent than ever.
It is commendable how well Mumford & Sons have adapted to this stylistic change. The album opens up with a statement—electric guitar riffs, bass on blast, and solid percussions and synths screaming alternative rock. As delightful as a box of Belgian truffles, Mumford’s vocals are of a buttery smoothness, husky and immaculate in his country drawls.
As the album progresses, tracks remain consistent in sound—so much so that it gets increasingly difficult to distinguish one song from the other. This could be attributed to the basic formula that nearly all tracks on the record follow: electric guitar chords as the base, synth plinks lightly layered in the background, and drums encasing the song with rhythmic percussions, all tied together with similar beats and rhythms.
Somehow, producers Ford and Dessner manage to make it work – they find a good balance. The same effect resonates with little splashes of their signature folk such as in “Just Smoke” and a warm delicacy presented in “Wilder Dreams.”
Moreover, the album as a whole fails in its sequential organization of tracks. It’s as if the band decided to sprint a marathon half-heartedly, then gave up halfway. The first seven songs hold true to the rock band appeal, hyped by the multiple layers of instruments, but the latter half of slow ballads brings the mood to a lull. “Wilder Dreams” is an admirable endeavor in switching up the style of Mumford & Sons.
The album takes on alternative rock by the horns and expresses a definite change. While fans may miss the gentle, acoustic feel, this album isn’t too far-fetched that fan bases will completely reject it. Success or not, the record is still a baby step.