Mumford and Sons
Marcus Mumford's quartet are an unlikely global phenomenon. Posh-but-scruffy Londoners playing acoustic folk-pop, they now fill huge venues worldwide and their debut album, Sigh No More, has sold more than two million copies in the US alone.
Sigh no more indeed. Three years on, this follow-up is an attempt to intensify their live set while maintaining that huge audience. The pace of the banjo-plucking has upped slightly, there's a darker edge on occasion, but generally Babel sticks to the traditional formula, like a resident hoedown band returning after a short intermission.
Several tracks were recorded live and there are pleasingly rough edges to both the instrumentation and Mumford's throaty howl, particularly on the visceral title track. Hints of hillbilly are evident (they began work on this album in Nashville), although the relentlessly jaunty banjo from "Country" Winston Marshall does get a little torturous at times.
Thankfully the lower-key Ghosts That We Knew, remorseful Broken Crown and harder-rocking Hopeless Wanderer offer welcome respite. Babel may not be a towering achievement, but the happy wandering should continue.