An Album Review: Sigh No More

by Mumford and Sons

I desperately want to be a hipster, however, I have two problems. First, I am always late in hearing about things that are hip. Being a hipster means knowing about stuff before it is cool. Second, I like things that are popular. Hipsters sit in judgment of everything that is popular. So when I heard about Mumford and Sons, in an effort to be a hipster, I resolved not to like them. But, alas, I am not a hipster and so I find myself truly enjoying this album.

This British folk rock band organized in 2007, but really made a name for itself in the US at the 2010 Grammys playing their hit song The Cave and backing up Bob Dylan on his classic, Maggie’s Farm. They have become wildly popular in the US and Sigh No More has sold over 1,000,000 copies here and in the UK. They are set to release their second studio album sometime this year.

Their high-powered folk sound is a breath of fresh air in a world where rock-n-roll has become bland and uninventive. That being said, perhaps my biggest critique of the album is that the songs tend to sound the same. The music is written in such a way that it matches the mood of the lyrics exceptionally well. In fact, the true beauty of this album is the lyrics. In my efforts to dislike Mumford and Sons, I constantly found myself enamored with the content of their songs. A constant theme of despair and hope carries the album as Marcus Mumford gives voice both to life’s biggest struggles (faith, God, guilt) as well life’s greatest hopes (love, resurrection, redemption). I do not know much of their faith-story, however, with song titles like “Roll Away Your Stone,” one can’t help but imagine some familiarity with the Christian narrative of hope.

The album begins with “Sigh No More,” a song about a trustworthy love that makes you into the person you were created to be. “The Cave” picks up on themes from GK Chesterton’s book on St. Francis of Assisi when they sing, “So come out of your cave walking on your hands; and see the world hanging upside down; you can understand dependence; When you know the Maker’s hand.” The idea being, perhaps, that once you come through a great darkness you can see the world from a place of dependence on God, and that is the right place to be. The sin inside and the joy of grace are clearly understood in “Roll Away Your Stone” when, at the point where one is unable to find anything inside oneself but darkness, there is a word of grace spoken:

It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart

The themes of hope and despair – with an overpowering sense of hope – are most clearly heard on the finale “After the Storm.” Mumford cries,

I will die alone and be left there.
Well I guess I’ll just go home,
Oh God knows where.
Because death is just so full and man so small.
Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.

If you have ever faced death or been through the death of a loved one, perhaps you get this. Death seems so full and we seem so incapable of doing anything about it. Further, you can have all the faith in the world, but when death’s cold breath is breathing down your neck, a fear about the hereafter is unavoidable. Death is utterly hopeless. This is Good Friday. But, as with Jesus, death never gets to sing the last verse,

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

Are you kidding me!?! I want to sing this at Easter! Luther says that God won’t give us hope without first causing us to despair of ourselves. There is no heaven without hell first. There is always death before life. Death is all too real, but what is more real is the Love that walks out of a tomb. That love will bring you into a time, an eternity, with no tears, no fears, no broken hearts. On the other side of this hill we will have grace filled hearts and flowered heads, a new creation on the other side of death. This is the very promise of Easter!

This is real hope, not some Oh-things-will-get-better-‘cuz-Jesus-loves -ya kind of hope! Though this is not an explicitly Christian album, the themes of hope beyond despair, banding together through dark times, and the strength of love resonate very strongly with the Biblical narrative of death and resurrection, the communion of saints, and God’s gracious salvation in Christ Jesus.

So, maybe it is not hip to like popular bands. But I’m no hipster (I ama Lutheran pastor, for heaven’s sake!) so I can whole-heartedly recommend this album!

Album Highlights: The Cave, Roll Away Your Stone, After the Storm

Parental Warning: Strong lyrics on Little Lion Man