Sigh some more.
In October of 2009, Mumford & Sons performed “Timshel,” acoustically, at the offices of Time Out New York, where I was working at the time. It was simple, harmonic. Well played.
But, here we are in June of 2011 and the paternalistic Marcus Mumford and his boys still have a debut, “Sigh No More,” nestled securely in the Top 20. It’s platinum in the United States and three-times over in its native UK, two things that just don’t happen very much anymore. To boot, Mumford & Sons are playing two sold-out shows at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium this week before heading down the legitimacy highway to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
It’s not that Mumford & Sons are a bad band; they aren’t. A song like “The Cave” exhibits a rising catchiness that could single-handedly explain the band’s success. But, why are we still, as a nation, listening to Mumford & Sons? I could see giving “Sigh No More” a few spins in ‘10, but, by now, the saccharine lyrics and Mumford’s whiny croon are more played out than political sex scandals. “Winter Winds” is a bore, “Roll Away Your Stone” overly emotional and formulaic, etc., etc, Amen. In short, there’s nothing challenging about the music.
Certainly, Mumford deserves some credit for bringing a pseudo-folky Americana-slash-bluegrass into the public consciousness again. But, if you like Mumford & Sons, why not check out some, well, better options? At least until they release a new record, that is.
A good place to start would be local folkie Nathaniel Rateliff, who opens for Mumford at the Fillmore shows. His tunes are unassuming and moving. Just down Colfax on Wednesday, Okkervil River heads up a stacked bill at the Bluebird. Will Sheff & Co.’s new one, “I Am Very Far,” is a surprisingly fresh turn from the vets, the songs complex and spry. The $22 show — which includes cerebral punks Titus Andronicus and loop magician Julianna Barwick — will undoubtedly be a better investment than trolling Craigslist for $100 Mumford tix.
If you’re headed to Telluride (like a few members of our Reverb crew) — which might just be the best music festival experience in the country — there will obviously be no shortage of Bill Monroe-style authentic bluegrass. But, be sure to stalk wunderkind picker Chris Thile, from his early Friday session with Michael Daves to his pre-Mumford slot Sunday with Punch Brothers. Maybe you can reverse commute to the food tents while the masses take in Mumford; just be sure to get back for Robert Plant’s closing set.
Sigh no more; five other recently-released folk-ish albums to try out:
1. Bill Callahan, “Apocalypse”
2. Dawes, “Nothing Is Wrong”
3. Cass McCombs, “Wit’s End”
4. Woods, “Sun and Shade”
5. Kurt Vile, “Smoke Ring for My Halo”