Mumford & Sons' sophomore release is epic for a number of reasons: the gripping emotion, vulnerability, dark moments, the banjo -- all elements for a great musical composition. And then there is Marcus Mumford's voice.
The songs on "Babel" are anchored by his powerful tone, which is beautifully gritty and gravely, and downright commanding. He's got one of the best voices of our time.
On "I Will Wait," Mumford proclaims: "But I'll kneel down, wait for now, and I'll kneel down, know my ground." And on the closing track, "Not With Haste," he sings: "And I was broke, I was on my knees, you said yes as I said please."
The album explores the many facets of a relationship with deep, touching lyrics that don't sound cheesy, making for a collection of songs that feel honest and heartfelt. (Some of the songs could very well be about Mumford's wife, Oscar-nominated actress Carey Mulligan.)
But Mumford isn't the album's only star. When the foursome harmonizes on songs such as "Ghosts That We Knew" and "Below My Feet," it brings on the chills. Another star is Markus Dravs, who produced the new record as well as the band's 2009 double platinum debut, "Sigh No More," and Arcade Fire's Grammy-winning "The Suburbs."
"Babel," with its indie folk-rock swag, is one of the year's bests.
-- Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press
Lupe Fiasco raps masterfully on album
The 17-track album is filled with complex rhymes from Fiasco, who raps masterfully on several scenarios regarding American urban culture.
The Chicago-bred rapper tackles the misuse of an explicit word used toward females on the single, "Bitch Bad." On "Hood Now (Outro)," he raps about several scenarios of how the world has been cultivated by the urban lifestyle, from sagging pants to diamond chains.
"Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" is a good listen. But the song -- which is a sample of Pete Rock & CL Smooth's 1992 release "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" -- doesn't do the original much justice.
Fiasco also raps about love and attempting to overcome heartbreak on "Battle Scars," featuring Australian pop singer Guy Sebastian, and "Heart Donor" with Poo Bear. Other good listens include "Lamborghini Angels," "Brave Heart" with Poo Bear, "Cold War," featuring Jane $$$ and "(Roses)."
In all, "Food & Liquor II" is not as entertaining as Fiasco's first two albums -- "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor" and "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool." But the rapper's ability to rhyme with substance about the shape of today's urban society makes his new album a compelling piece of work.
-- Jonathan Landrum Jr., Associated Press