Taking a look back at Babel 10 years later

Mumford and Sons pose for the artwork of their second studio album ‘Babel’. Courtesy of Glassnote Records

Six studio EPs, four albums, and 15 years later, Mumford and Sons have grown from a small indie-folk group to one of the defining bands of the 2010s. While their discography is broad and expansive, it has come time to celebrate 10 years of the album that put their name on the map. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Babel, the band’s second and most successful album of all time. Seeing as how Mumford and Sons have a spot amongst bands like The Fray, The Lumineers, and Imagine Dragons as some of the most popular bands of our youth, taking a look back at Babel 10 years later solidifies why Mumford and Sons were, and still are, so successful. 

Babel kicks off with its exciting and tangy title track. Accompanied by the dominant yet slightly raspy voice of lead singer, Marcus Mumford, listeners are struck with a calming reality of the inevitabilities of life. The bright folk accompaniment paired with controlled, soft vocals juxtaposed with the sultry belting grit Mumford possesses, we are introduced to the sound that is the rest of Babel. Mumford opens the album singing of how he knows time has numbered his dayswhile still speaking to the point that he has never spent a year more in love. The contemplative and hopeful nature of the song paired with the upbeat guitar invites us to relate, to feel somewhat better about the limited time we spend here on Earth. While “Babel” is a beautifully written and emotive song, Mumford and Sons didn’t reinvent the wheel here, it’s an existential folk love song, Mumford and Sons truly establish their spot as one of the greats throughout the rest of the album.

It’s hard to imagine Mumford and Sons without immediately thinking of track three off of Babel. “I Will Wait” was the band’s breakout hit, establishing their name in the indie-rock scene, going three times platinum in the U.S. As the first single off of Babel, “I Will Wait” proves that Mumford and Sons are in fact capable of more. It proves they can do it all, they can holler, they can yearn, and most importantly, they can control the shifts in their music as well as bands like U2 or The Goo Goo Dolls while staying true to their folk-rock roots. But it truly is the band’s delivery of their heartfelt lyrics that is the selling point of “I Will Wait”. The single is ever so familiar yet boldly mature that it sets such a precedent for true love -or what we hope true love can be. Their unique folk sound paired with beautiful lyrics that speak of a love pure enough to “Kneel down/ (and) Wait for now” is touching. Not only is it touching, it’s catchy, and it’s so inviting that we can’t just help but to just feel hopeful and awe-inspired by the love Mumford sings of. “I Will Wait” alone is good enough to carry all of Babel but every other song just adds and supplements the album. “I Will Wait” simply just encapsulates it all though, which is why it stands as the band’s most successful and iconic song.

Songs like “Ghosts That We Knew”, bring variety and balance the softness of Babel. This song in particular really hones in on the band’s ability to slow things down, their ability to learn about and skillfully articulate the comfort that love can provide. “Ghosts That We Knew” also serves as another way that the band can prove that they are masters of their craft, that they’re able to tactically move around their tone from soft and quiet to upbeat and hopeful. Hope as a whole is what drives Babel and what makes this album so successful. With their music, Mumford and Sons acknowledge life is hard but that with love, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Lyrics like “So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light/’Cause oh that gave me such a fright/But I will hold on as long as you like/ Just promise me we’ll be alright” are littered throughout the entire album. Lyrics like these speak to the band’s unique ability to communicate hope through not just a sound that grows more upbeat, but through immersive lyrics that throw readers into the vulnerability of Mumford’s experience. 

Though all the songs are performed by the band itself, the penultimate track features modern music legend, Paul Simon. As one of the most acclaimed songwriters in modern music, his presence on Babel on “The Boxer” only highlights the depth Mumford and Sons bring to their music. This song welcomes listeners to the end of the album, hitting the heart of the album and speaking to the hope that should drive our lives. As the penultimate track on the album, “The Boxer” serves as a segway into the final song “Not With Haste”. Although this song is similar to many others off of the album, “Not With Haste” wraps up the album by keeping steady on the notes of true love. Another song about hoping for a better future and living our dreams serves as a perfect way to end such an optimistic album. 

Taking a look back at Babel now, it’s clear to see why it was so wildly successful. Mumford and Sons pack a whole lot of hope into just 12 songs but, through those 12 songs Mumford and Sons transports listeners into a simpler, more sonically pleasing, mindset, a skill often overlooked by artists today.  While “I Will Wait” is the song most people will take off of Babel, the rest of the album shares the same qualities that make it worth revisiting after all these years. Now that we’ve all grown up and experienced the world, the songs off of Babel speak to us now more than ever. Babel is what kick-started their careers but Mumford and Sons continue to bring their audience to new, hopeful places, even a decade later. 

Samantha Trujillo is a staff editor for Oswego East’s online news magazine The HOWL

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