Album Review: “Delta” by Mumford and Sons

By adding an electronica twist to their folk rock roots, Mumford and Sons creates a stunning set of tracks that shows the band’s versatility.

Mumford and Sons returned to the music scene this month with their latest album “Delta.” Like much of the music industry recently, the band experiments with electronic mixing, creating new sounds to embellish its music. Nevertheless, Mumford and Sons also bring back elements of their past styles by reintroducing their acoustic instruments into their music, including the banjo and upright bass, although they are barely noticeable through the heavy sound processing. With their new tools in hand, Mumford and Sons create a phenomenal blend of folk rock and electronica that keeps listeners at the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

Synthesized instruments and sounds dominate the album’s sound, creating an ethereal feeling in most of the songs that can be further defined by the dichotomy between light and darkness. Fittingly, the album contains the two tracks, “Guiding Light” and “Darkness Visible,” that really showcase these effects. “Guiding Light” uses upbeat guitar strums and a fluttering piano riff in the chorus to achieve a shimmering sound, representing the “light” that one sees in someone they love. The opposite is audible in “Darkness Visible,” a less conventional song that does not feature any vocals, but includes an ominous narrator reciting a somber excerpt of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” A booming bass kick is backed by a synthesized violin and discordant piano to give off an eerie vibe. These sounds gradually crescendo until the end when all sound is abruptly cut off to evoke the feeling of darkness engulfing the listener.

In several tracks, Mumford and Sons also achieve a western, wilderness-like sound by taking artistic liberty with their synthesizers and layering them over their acoustic instruments. These effects are heard in “The Wild,” and in the introduction of their titular song, “Delta.” The echoing banjos and guitars backing the vocals create the image of one crying into the wild from a mountain.

Lyrically, Mumford and Sons take a more introspective approach from what they usually produce. The album delves into embracing death in “October Skies,” when the speaker declares he has “faith in wraith.” Not limited to dreary themes, the band also takes an interesting approach to covering love in “Forever.” In this track, the speaker harkens back to his own experiences with failed love, encourages listeners to take initiative in their own relationship, and to “love with your mind.” Literature references abound throughout some songs, such as in the aforementioned “Darkness Visible.” Subtler allusions appear in “Rose of Sharon,” a tender song which references a collection of love poems in the Bible called “The Song of Songs.” Through these little insertions and its overall precise diction, one rarely hears the word “wraith” anymore. It is clear Mumford and Sons put in extra effort to make thoughtful lyrics for their listeners to truly connect emotionally with the music.

However, the album’s organization is a weak point in the overall presentation. While the album contains a diverse set of tracks with different styles and sounds, Mumford and Sons chose to cluster similar songs near each other rather than spacing them out. This is best exemplified by the first four songs of the album, all of which have a similar tempo, key, and style which wear the listener down until “The Wild” queues up and changes the musical flavor. That being said, certain transitions were clearly done on purpose, such as the one between “Picture You” and “Darkness Visible.” Cleverly, Mumford and Sons reference “Darkness Visible” in the lyrics of “Picture You,” and when one listens to the songs consecutively, the transition point is almost unnoticeable. This same trope is done in the transition between “42” and “Guiding Light” where “Guiding Light” is alluded to in “42” before the transition, although this one is not as seamless as the one between “Picture You” and “Darkness Visible.”

“Delta” is truly a gem in the sea of albums released this year. With their well-thought-out lyrics and hybrid folk-electronica rock style, Mumford and Sons once again create an emotionally charged album with fantastic sound effects that leave listeners in awe.

Grade: A
Release Date: November 16th, 2018

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