So, writing this list was, for me, about as hard as the Muse one I did a little while back…
Another band that I utterly adore is, Mumford & Sons. They’re superb, consistent and relatively unique - mixing up country, pop, rock, folk and probably genres I’ve not even thought of. There are not many people any more that have not heard of them. The thing is, they haven’t really declined that much. Whilst their later albums have not been as sensational as their break-out work, it’s not too far off - some of the tracks are actually superb, ‘The Wolf’ is one example.
The band have done a superb job of branding and really encapsulating their sound. From what I can remember, there was near to nothing like them when they first emerged. The acoustic singer-songwriter ‘thing’ was all the rage again and I just wasn’t a fan. When Mumford & Sons burst through with pipes, banjos, drums, and lyrics that just paint pictures of stags, cider, country pubs, tobacco pipes, log fires, beard combs and woolen jackets - I was sold!
But anyway, I won’t go into the full log cabin retirement plan I have in store for myself, one day… Let’s get on with the list!
12. White Blank Page - Sigh No More (2009)
Ah, ‘White Blank Page’. Something of a love story this one. I can only assume it is about wiping the slate clean and starting again in a relationship. It gives me the impression a girl has left a guy and it his plea in order to win her back. The soft opening quickly leads into a powerful and driven pulse of emotion - possibly his rage and confusion in the wake of the break-up. It’s beautiful and, as always, the lyrics are so well composed it makes the story-driven song a poetic ‘heart-tugger’.
11. There Will Be Time - Johannesburg (2016)
I don’t know why but I have a particular love for this song. After Paul Simon went to Africa and utilised the soulful sound and essence of the people in his music, it has been done many, many times since. Rarely do I find music that does this in a way that touches me like this song does. The hopeful yet baleful vocals of both Marcus Mumford and Baaba Maal erupt into a cacophony of British folk and African soul. Epic.
10. Babel - Babel (2012)
The titular track from their 2012 album comes barrelling out of the speakers like a cohort of drunk minstrels. The beating drums and invigorated vocals make for a wall of sound that hits you like a train (I’ve realised I listen to music far too loud…). With only small sections to rest, the band keep the tempo, energy and power up throughout its entirety. If you want a barn-dance belter, this is one of the ones you want.
9. Believe - Wilder Mind (2015)
The controversial 3rd album was heavily debated among the people in my life. It received a mixed reception and it isn’t hard to see why. The band had clearly moved in another direction. The album is a lot heavier and makes use of a much more rock and electronic atmospheric. In certain songs, it all comes together and produces beautiful stadium-filling bangers, like this one. It’s touching and thoughtful and about having doubts over a person you love.
8. Dust Bowl Dance - Sigh No More (2009)
This Grapes of Wrath inspired song is about a young man with almost nothing, being forced off his land where he was raised. You can feel the wrath, let’s put it that way. Marcus Mumford has always been able to inject his characters with a sense of pain and anger - this is no different. You can almost hear the young man saying these words with rage in his eyes. It’s almost scary when you get to the climactic instrumental that can only be the explosion of events following the man’s decision to act.
7. Winter Winds - Sigh No More (2009)
Oddly upbeat for sad song. He finds himself with a girl and wants to love her but is unsure if he genuinely does love her or is only with her out of fear of being alone. It sounds like the start of every rom-com ever made, but Mumford pull it off with more than enough style. Incorporating roaring brass instruments and a swaying, driven vocal line, you just want to sing along until your heart is as warm as the lighter you’re waving above your head.
6. Thistle And Weeds - Sigh No More (2009)
You might think this is a strange one. Well, give it a listen and fade everything else out. It lures you into a false sense of security with it’s slow and uneasy progression, but when that piano kicks in, shizz starts to go sideways… It becomes so fiercely intense that at certain volumes you would be forgiven for thinking the world was ending. It just feels so desperate. Mumford sounds so sorrowful and despairing. I love it so much...
5. Broken Crown - Babel (2012)
Don’t be deceived by the gentle introduction, as it definitely doesn't stay this way and it’s message is just as foreboding. From I understand the song to mean, a man commits suicide after realising his lover or partner has fallen from grace and been disloyal. In a emotional and very powerful vocal performance from Marcus, we hear his bitterness and hatred for the situation he has been put in.
4. Below My Feet - Babel (2012)
This is my favourite Mumford & Sons song (period, if you’re American. As I am not, a good old-fashioned full-stop will do nicely). I’ve always felt like the song has a positive message to give. The biblical imagery is more about giving hope than faith. He’s asking his lover to keep him grounded during the times he is lost and afraid. For me, it is a song about the will to learn and the fear of failure in any aspect of life. Something we can all relate to.
3. I Will Wait - Babel (2012)
Who doesn’t love this one? It is about the challenges that face someone maintaining a relationship whilst on the road. The difference with this one, is that it is more jolly and happy than some of the other heavy hitting tracks they’ve produced. You get the feeling that he’s succeeding in his mission to make it work ... Rather than the relationship declining, it’s going strong. The chorus is not only one of the catchiest I’ve ever heard, it’s also full of positive energy and if you’ll excuse the sappiness, love.
2. Little Lion Man - Sigh No More (2009)
Before we get to number one, we have number two (obviously) and it was a toss up, but I’m sure you can guess which is first if ‘Little Lion Man’ is number 2… As iconic to the band as it is brilliant. Everyone enjoys putting as much venom as possible behind that F-word and then continuing to sing along to the easy and formulaic rhythms of the song. With an instrumental backing that echoes something of duelling banjos lurking behind the guitar, you can’t deny it feels good to belt out those drawn out ‘Ahs’ before the final chorus.
1. The Cave - Sigh No More (2009)
Arguably, the most definitive Mumford song, it was the song that everyone knew and everyone would sing along to at parties when they first emerged. An unknown band burst into the world with an originality that stunned everyone. Epic banjo playing and elaborate lyrics shot the band to fame and to the top of everyone's party playlists. Again, a message of hope and to fight your fears is given to us with poetic melancholy. This was the song that made us fall in love with this London folk-rock band.
And that is the Top 12. I could have kept going in all fairness. I had a ‘shortlist’ of around 30 songs, all utterly incredible. The Boxer, being one of my favourites, but not quite making the cut ... A cover, of course, by the aforementioned Paul Simon. Alas, if I had done a Top 30 then we’d have cases on our hands where Bill would be doing lists on the Top 100 Beatles songs… It would be great, and I may ask him to do that very thing, but you get my point.
So, that is what I think (it really was difficult with so many brilliant songs), but let me know what you think on Twitter @MugwumpBlog. Have I missed any of your favourites?