The word “evolution” is thrown around a lot when critics yak about an artist’s career. Is the band “naturally progressing?” Are they consistently improving from album to album and transforming their sound?


Mumford & Sons

It seems to be coded in our DNA: in order for an artist to remain relevant, the aforementioned changes must take place — if not to appease the critics than to keep the artists’ fans shocked and interested (and the band from getting bored). It’s fun to hear new stuff, but too much change is a turn-off for even the most pious groupie.

Enter Mumford & Sons, that group of British lads with the signature fast-paced, folky banjo sound. They built their reputation on throwing it back and stripping it down — no machinery required. Their latest release, “Believe,” sheds all Mumfordian quirks; it’s a slow-ish, techno-infused fantasy ballad a la “Fix You” by Coldplay. It starts out eerie, weirdly synth-y and blossoms into an electrically charged cry for help. Lead singer Marcus Mumford’s smoky vocals are the only thing connecting the old to the new, and he sounds handsome as always.

It’s interesting, futuristic and melancholy; Snow Patrol and all the other I’m-a-vulnerable-man pop-rock groups would be proud. Mumford & Sons, however, shouldn’t be as thrilled — sure, this new schtick is catchy as hell, catered to pop radio and all its listeners looking for a bit of vanilla passion during their morning commute. But it’s been done before. We hear it on the radio all the time. Is the band truly “progressing” if they’re walking the exact same path as so many others: a mediocre, dead-end street of pseudo-rock (think: Lifehouse) melodies? Not exactly.

Bring the banjos back.

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