It's doubtful many people predicted the breakout success of Mumford & Sons' 2009 debut, Sigh No More. That probably includes Marcus Mumford himself. In the wake of the band's ascension to arena-rockers, Dylan-backers and Grammy nominees, the earnest bandleader has been forced to eat his words that the next album would abandon the plaintive bluegrass-folk-rock that shot them to prominence. This much-anticipated follow-up essentially repeats the foot-stomping, banjo-picking formula, but scrubs away the subtlety.
Mumford & Sons reportedly road-tested the songs, an unusual approach for a major-label band in an era of intellectual property protection, but a wise one considering that M&S's popularity comes from their rafter-reaching choruses. The four-piece's secret has always been an ability to pair Arcade Fire grandiosity with emotionally manipulative Coldplay solemnity. Years on the road have allowed them to fine-tune that power and deliver it 12 times. And so we get a 52-minute slog of an album, though Mumford & Sons have admitted it's just an advert for their concerts anyway.
Top track: I Will Wait