HEADLINES

Kudos on Making Mumford & Sons’ Babel a Smash! Now, Add These 10 Records to Your Collection.

Mumford & Sons

If you’re reading this, odds are you purchased Mumford & Sons’ strong sophomore album, Babel, in the past two weeks (if you’ve bought any albums at all). Mumford & Sons are a rare bird; they are great songwriters with a central focus on heart and emotion, an infectious live band, radio kings, and one the few breakout smashes of recent years who actually play instruments, write their own songs, and can be classified as a rock band by any stretch of imagination.

If you haven’t heard yet, Babel is a towering music industry success. In an age when the industry reports show nobody is buying records, Mumford & Sons managed to sell 600,000 physical copies of the album in its opening week. Compile that figure with the 420,000 digital downloads sold, and the band surpassed the prestigious one million mark in less than seven days. Week two saw the Babel succumbing to a massive sales drop, but the Mumford & Sons still took home the #1 spot on the Billboard charts with another 169,000 albums sold (well ahead of the 102,000 units Muse moved in the #2 spot with The 2nd Law).

Based on the long, sustained chart success of the band’s debut album, Sigh No More, the holiday shopping on the near horizon likely means Babel could gain significant steam in the months ahead to be an even more astounding sales anomaly than it already is. If you are a music lover (which I presume you are if you’re here), this is refreshing news for anybody who champions the notion of actual albums and legitimate, meaningful bands who play instruments and write songs.

Keep buying records, and buy Babel for a friend if that’s what it takes this holiday season. While you have that copy of Mumford & Sons’ smash hit in your hand, consider spreading the wealth to some other bands just as deserving of your ears as your favorite British folk rockers. If you love Mumford & Sons, these ten, recent albums are well worth your time and money, and they just may end up becoming your new, favorite records:

 

Elliott BROOD – Days Into Years (Paper Bag Records)

Elliott Brood

Elliott BROOD

Days Into Years is the third album from the Elliott BROOD, the excellent Toronto trio comprised of vocalist Mark Sasso, guitarist Casey Laforet and drummer Stephen Pitkin. Classified for years as a death-folk band, Elliott BROOD has long focused on acoustic guitar, melodies and lyrics that mine the rich, black soil of Johnny Cash and Scott Walker. Before recording Days Into Years, the trio found inspiration upon encountering World War I cemeteries filled their Canadian brethren during their tour of Europe.

As I wrote of the band back in April, “Elliott BROOD write the kinds of songs that make you genuinely want to hang on every word. They craft verses with the unmistakable desire to make every word heard and every chorus sung out. Elliott BROOD wants you to know all the words to every song, feel alive in their stories and sing along with all of your heart when they come to town.”

Elliott BROOD – “If I Get Old”

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams (IAMSOUND)

Lord Huron

Lord Huron

Lonesome Dreams is the Los Angeles band Lord Huron’s full-length, debut album, and it’s a masterful set of open-hearted, rustic wonder voiced and penned by gifted songwriter Ben Schneider. As my review of Lonesome Dreams states, “Lord Huron have an uncommon talent for creating songs that offer the very essence of what it is to be human – embracing wonder, finding love, fighting death, cherishing honor –while granting them an almost heroic beauty extracted from the mountains, valleys, forests, deserts and lakes that have blessed mankind with their beauty for ages…  If the ten phenomenal songs that comprise Lonesome Dreams draw chart an accurate blueprint for the voyage ahead, Lord Huron should be lighting necessary fires in our hearts and turning our eyes to the skies for years to come.”

Lord Huron – “Brother”

Ha Ha Tonka – Death of a Decade (Bloodshot Records)

Ha Ha Tonka

Ha Ha Tonka

Ozarks foursome Ha Ha Tonka made the definitive statement that they are one of the best, unsung bands in America when they released Death of a Decade, their splendid third album of passionate rock and roll packed with barnburners and shout-to-the-heavens choruses. Released in 2011, this album has the unmitigated power to turn you into a believer if you don’t own it yet. It won me on first listen, and it has been a staple on my record player for more than a year. See these guys when they hit your town, and you won’t be able to stop yourself from turning all of your friends onto Ha Ha Tonka.

Ha Ha Tonka – “The Usual Suspects”

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit, the duo comprised of young, Swedish sisters Johanna and Clara Söderberg, write magnificent folk gems of pastoral beauty and poignant storytelling all over their second album, The Lion’s Roar. Perhaps the album’s finest, indelible creation is the chorus on “Emmylou,” which also happens to be one of the best songs of 2012. With melodies like, “I’ll be your Emmylou, and I’ll be your June / if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny, too / No, I’m not asking much of you / Just sing, little darling / Sing with me,” sung in perfect harmony, how could you possibly go wrong taking a chance on this album?

First Aid Kit – “The Lion’s Roar”

Ponderosa – Pool Party (New West Records)

Ponderosa

Ponderosa

Native Georgians Ponderosa consider themselves a neo-psychedelic indie rock band, which is absolutely true; but, they’re also Southerners with Americana and roots in their bloodlines. As I said in my review of Ponderosa’s wonderful sophomore album, Pool Party:

“It’s far too early in Ponderosa’s career to toast them in anywhere near equal esteem to legitimate genre-smashing giants like My Morning Jacket, but Pool Party finds the band self-assuredly crafting a caliber of album that boldly soars on that trajectory. For the time being though, it’s probably best to take a few steps back from all that has been said.  The valuable decision is the one to spend little time worrying about what genre Ponderosa falls into, who influences them, and what an ideal sophomore album should comprise if it aims to meet or exceed expectations. It’s best to just drop the needle, turn the knob a few clicks louder and get delightfully wrapped up in the welcome, unexpected gift of an album that can sneak up on you and transport you to an alluring panorama with charms that multiply on each additional listen.”

Ponderosa – “Navajo”

Wheeler Brothers  - Portraits (Bismeaux Records)

Wheeler Brothers

Wheeler Brothers

Wheelers Brothers are a quintet of Austin, TX natives whose debut album, Portraits (released in 2011), is a winning, versatile collection of muscular folk with a sturdy rock and roll backbone polished off with monumental refrains. At the 2012 Austin Music Awards, Wheeler Brothers took home honors for Best New Band, Best Roots Rock, Best Bass Player, Best Acoustic Guitar and Best Lap Steel. If that’s not enough of ringing endorsement for a band in a city as acclaimed for its musical virtues as Austin is, I guess there’s no convincing you of otherwise.

Wheeler Brothers – “Mississippi”

Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful (Dualtone Music Group)

Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope

South Carolinian duo Carrie Ann Heart and Michael Trent make up Shovels & Rope, and they play exquisitely crafted country-folk that struts rural backroads with two big, beating heart and voices singing out in beautiful harmony. My fellow The Silver Tongue contributor John Beringer can sing the praises of Shovels & Rope better than anybody, so I’ll let his review of O’ Be Joyful do all of the necessary talking.

Shovels & Rope – “Hail Hail”

Bahamas – Barchords (Universal Republic)

Bahamas

Bahamas

Bahamas is the musical moniker of Afie Jurvanen, an Ontario songwriter and musician who spent the past few years playing piano and guitar alongside Feist. His gorgeous 2012 sophomore album, Barchords, is a 12-song, front-to-back knockout of poignant compositions filled with heartwarming melodies and heartache ballads. Barchords received deserving acclaim with Juno and Polaris Prize nominations, cementing its status as one of the finest Canadian releases of the year. Bahamas is a genuine artist worth cherishing, and Barchords is an album that has been in heavy rotation in my home all year long. I consider myself blessed for owning the record, and I have little doubt I’ll be enjoying its wonders for years to come.

Bahamas – “Lost in the Light”

Finally, if, by God, you’ve gone this long without taking a chance on the simply magnificent, eponymous debut records by the merrymaking Seattle sextet The Head And The Heart (SubPop) and joyous Denver folkies The Lumineers (Dualtone), run out and buy them as soon as humanly possible!

 

The Head And The Heart

The Head And The Heart

The Head And The Heart – “Lost In My Mind”

The Lumineers

The Lumineers

The Lumineers – “Ho Hey” / “Flowers In Your Hair”

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