On the eve of their musical and lyrical reinvention with ‘Wilder Mind’, we flick through Mumford missives old and new to see how they stack up.
10 ‘Awake My Soul’
Set to triumphant strings, this celebratory ‘Awake My Soul’ climax makes the inevitability of death sound as joyous as the inevitability of egg nog at Christmas.
9 ‘Whispers in the Dark’
Although we don’t get to hear how this particular love saga played out, what makes Marcus Mumford Marcus Mumford is his ability to squeeze a cheery sentiment out of it anyway, like a naïve little brother whose goofy optimism makes you smile anyway.
8 ‘Holland Road’
When you hit rock bottom, there’s nothing like the steady commitment of a loved one to remind you that you’re still the boss. Unless you just lost your job in management, in which case that’d probably make things worse.
7 ‘The Wolf’
There’s no telling what exactly Mr Mumford’s wolf represents in this ‘Wilder Mind’ newbie, but he paints it in such stark colours you can’t help getting swept up in the story. That’s presuming it is a metaphor, of course – sometimes a wolf’s just a wolf, right?
After spending two albums mastering the art of bard-speak, Mumford tells it straight on the band’s lead ‘Wilder Mind’ track. A concession to pop? Sure, but guys, it’s 2015. Live a little.
5 ‘Below My Feet’
Feeling betrayed by a lord who can’t keep promises, Mumford throws a minor hissy fit in ‘Below My Feet’, sneering sarcastically that “all must be well” because he decreed it so. But it never is, is it.
4 ‘Broken Crown’
After a remorseful few minutes ruing bad decisions, this parting shot from ‘Broken Crown’ sees Mumford swallow his sorrow and take accountability for his actions. Next time he’ll do better, he seems to be saying – but then what will he sing about?
3 ‘Sigh No More’
Like Mumford & Sons themselves, love gets a rougher ride than it deserves. We all get a bit grumpy with love sometimes – it’s unpredictable, barely knows it’s own power and often has a terrible sense of timing – but in the Book of Mumford, that’s all secondary to its liberating potential as a force of self-discovery.
2 ‘Winter Winds’
If you’re gonna be verbose, make sure you’re as on the money as this memorable couplet from the heart of ‘Sigh No More’. The first line’s a gem, too: everyone talks about how love makes everything seem rosy, but they don’t mention the way it makes you realise how bloody lonely everyone else is.
1 ‘Dust Bowl Dance’
M&S spend an awful lot of time writing as if the secrets of modern romance reside in 19th Century literature, but ‘Dust Bowl Dance’ drops present-day metaphors and jumps back to a time when tweed getups marked you out as a regular dude, rather than somebody who reads Mumford & Sons lyric lists. This conclusive climax puts a final nail in the song’s coffin, and order’s more for the narrator’s nemesis.