Marcus Mumford - (Self-Titled) Music Album Reviews

Marcus Mumford - (Self-Titled) Music Album Reviews
With production from Blake Mills, the Mumford & Sons frontman goes solo with a hushed, searching record anchored in trauma.

Nobody can blame Marcus Mumford for stepping away from Mumford & Sons, the blockbuster folk act that bears his name. By 2018’s Delta, they seemed weary of their own bag of tricks, looking beyond the confines of old-timey string-band revival by hiring producer Paul Epworth to process their acoustic instruments so they sounded electronic. The musical restlessness was compounded by banjoist and guitarist Winston Marshall’s increasing embrace of right-wing cultural commentators, an interest that first surfaced when he invited controversial Canadian professor Jordan Peterson to hang with the band in the studio. The group withstood the furor when Peterson posted a picture of the rendezvous on social media, but when Marshall took to Twitter to praise a book by alt-right author Andy Ngo, the band decided to part ways with him.

All this public controversy disguised how Mumford spent the years since Delta wrestling with his own demons. Persistent issues with drinking and binge eating led him to therapy, where he finally came to terms with the sexual abuse he experienced as a child—a situation he chronicles on “Cannibal,” the first cut on his solo debut, (self-titled). The hushed, searching set functions as an exorcism while gently suggesting the singer-songwriter may be poised to leave Mumford & Sons behind.

If gentle seems a curious word to describe an album anchored in trauma, it’s also fitting. Mumford’s defining musical gift is his soft touch: Even when Mumford & Sons's signature hit “I Will Wait” ascends to its urgent ending, he’s the earnest, empathetic rock at its center. (self-titled) places these characteristics at the forefront. By choosing to open with the quiet creep of “Cannibal,” a song where Mumford directly addresses his abuser (“I can still taste you and I hate it/That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it/You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw”), he draws a distinct line between the gregarious stomp of Mumford & Sons and his solo work. The atmosphere feels different, too. The lyrics are murmured slowly, deliberately, forcing the listener to lean into the speaker to comprehend the horror unfurling, at which point the tension breaks with a surging, echoing gale of guitars.

“Grace” carries over that sense of urgency with another cascade of strums, and we hear the adult Mumford begin to processes the trauma he’s kept so hidden that his own mother wound up learning about the abuse by listening to “Cannibal.” Mumford sums up this situation by singing “I coulda sworn I dropped that bomb on you already,” a graceless lyric that speaks to the blunt and specific approach throughout (self-titled), a noted change from the broad strokes of the tunes he wrote for his band. This emotional directness cries out for some texture and shade, which is what producer Blake Mills provides. Like his work with Jack Johnson on Meet the Moonlight earlier this year, Mills accents Mumford’s earnestness with flair, relying on pros like bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Jim Keltner for color while inviting a host of duet partners to give the singer-songwriter needed foils.

All these duets appear on the second half of (self-titled), the portion of the record where the arrangements teem with detail and drama, coalescing around some of the boldest melodies Mumford has written to date. “Better Angels” simmers to an insistent pulse that conjures new wave ghosts. On “Dangerous Game,” Clairo offers soft support, helping to undercut its sense of dread, while former PHOX member Monica Martin provides harmonies on “Go in Light,” a cut where Mumford comes across like a Justin Vernon eager to be loved. Phoebe Bridgers lends “Stonecatcher” spectral grace, and Brandi Carlile grounds the hushed “How” with tenderness, her harmonies underscoring Mumford’s quest to forgive his abuser. Each of the guest vocalists opens up the inward (self-titled), providing grace notes to his melodies while accentuating the warmer aspects of his voice.

On “Cannibal” and “How,” the bookends that are also the quietest moments on the record, the open emotions are impossible to avoid, whereas it takes effort—or at least a lyric sheet—to realize that the rest of (self-titled) chronicles the aftermath of processing trauma as an adult. That’s the confounding thing about (self-titled): Its strongest qualities as a record occasionally contradict the emotional thrust of the songs. Mills’ production gives the recordings dimension and depth, inevitably tempering the pain at the heart of the songs. The sumptuous, cinematic sound is almost soothing. While that’s more appealing than the buttoned-up folk of Mumford & Sons, it also undercuts the rawer journey that (self-titled) could have been.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Marcus Mumford - (Self-Titled) Music Album Reviews Marcus Mumford - (Self-Titled) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 27, 2022 Rating: 5


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