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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 18, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Alternative folk band goes back to roots

Delta

Mumford & Sons

Folkmusic roots mix with alternative rock in “Delta,” the latest, gorgeous addition to Mumford & Sons’ discography. The experimental welding of pop and rock flourishes beautifully, and it is this sound combination that structures the album.

The album’s opening song, “42,” emphasizes strong vocals and layered harmonies that were first found in the band’s debut album, “Sigh No More.” Though now combined with some electronic beats and the occasional low strums of electric guitar, “42” brings Mumford & Sons back to its folk roots.

As in all the albums, Marcus Mumford’s deep and indulgent voice soars above all else, even in the harmonies. “Rose of Sharon,” a slowed down, pop-style song in the middle of the album, showcases the lead singer’s seemingly effortless sound. But in the latter half of “Slip Away,” Mumford exhibits his ability to create a visceral reaction in the listener. “Slip Away” is about the singer’s unconditional love for an unnamed lover — and in Mumford’s voice, the listener can find tangible emotions to grasp.

In its up-tempo tracks, though seldom, “Delta” truly blossoms. “Guiding Light,” first released as a single, hearkens back to songs on the band’s 2015 album, “Wilder Mind.” Like the album, “Guiding Light” has echoing electric guitar, throbbing percussion and, of course, Mumford’s powerful vocals backed by robust, enchanting harmonies. The lyrics are simple enough to be catchy but thoughtful enough to tell a story — in this case, one about the ceaseless guidance of love during the bleaker moments of life.

The beats in “Delta,” however, are slightly different from those in “Wilder Mind,” “Babel” or “Sigh No More.” While the percussion drives the melody in all albums, there are noticeable traces of pop in the songs on “Delta.” Automated handclaps carry the mellow “Woman,” and in “Picture You,” snaps keep the vocals on the beat. This magnetic draw to pop-style artistry could be seen by some as a decline in thoughtfulness and execution on the band’s part. But Mumford & Sons has proven its talent is in its ability to dabble in innumerable genres. It has checked off folk, rock, alternative, indie and now pop. The versatility is exciting, not disappointing.

“Darkness Visible” is the only mostly instrumental track of the album, and there is something exceptionally haunting about this song. The momentum builds into an electrically apocalyptic explosion of sound, complete with lines from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in place of lyrics. Most of the album deals with love and how it can steer between the good and the terrible. “Darkness Visible” is the clearest example of how the band explores love as a destructive force. The evocative power of this idea is shown through the instrumentals in “Darkness Visible,” and it’s clear through this song and the rest of the album that Mumford & Sons knows how to create masterful music. Each track on “Delta” is sensational, and the band’s excellence will not be forgotten in years to come.