Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mind

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Who could blame Mumford & Sons for running away from their signature banjo stomp? Come 2015, when Wilder Mind saw spring release, so many bands had copped their big-footed folk jamboree that Mumford & Sons could feel the straitjacket constricting, so it's not a surprise that the group decided to try on something new. A change in fashion isn't strange -- no band wants to be pigeonholed -- but the odd thing about Wilder Mind is now that everybody else sounds like Mumford & Sons, Mumford & Sons decide to sound like everybody else. Without their old-timey affectations, the band seems interchangeable with any number of blandly attractive AAA rockers, a group that favors sound over song -- a curious switch for a purportedly old-fashioned quartet. Sometimes, the band do swing for arena-filling hooks and connect -- the quietly escalating "Believe," the incessant surge of "The Wolf," "Ditmas," which is the only song here that would scale to bare-bones acoustic arrangements -- but usually they subsist on a simmer, letting their immaculate, tasteful rock bubble quietly without ever threatening to spill over the edge. Often, the persistent, moody murmur recalls a diluted Kings of Leon, a comparison that can't help but underscore how Mumford & Sons have made the journey from retro throwback to glistening modern construction. Where once they carved their music out of reclaimed wood, they're now all steel and glass -- a bit sleeker but also a bit chillier. Such a description suggests this is a big shift, but it's all surface: underneath that exterior, Wilder Mind is the same Mumford & Sons, peddling reasonably handsome reconstructions of times gone by.

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