Mumford & Sons: Delta

Those looking for irony in their pop music need not apply.

Mumford & Sons
Delta
(Mumford And Sons/Glassnote)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The method by which they achieve it might have subtly changed over time, but Mumford & Sons’ overall go-for-broke aesthetic, evident when they first burst onto the scene a decade or so ago, is intact. Ultimately, they follow in the Springsteen/U2 line of artists prone to grand gestures. Those looking for irony in their pop music need not apply.

If you’re on that earnest wavelength, the band’s newest release, Delta, is a fine distillation of what makes these guys so engaging. Producer Paul Epworth embeds some experimental flourishes into the mix, such as tweaking the sound of the band’s trademark banjos so that they sound arena-rock ready. But his most effective tactic here is highlighting those potent moments when Marcus Mumford rises from folky warble to full-throated bellow as the band comes thundering all around him.

On Delta, the boys are pondering ageless mysteries but ultimately realize that the search is what counts. “I’ll meet you at the Delta,” Marcus sings in the closing track. “What’s behind I can clearly see/ But that beyond, that’s beyond me.” On the harmony-rich opener “42,” he wonders, “What if I need you in my darkest hour/ What if it turns out there is no other?” and it’s hard to tell if he’s speaking to a higher power or departed lover.

There aren’t many light moments on this album, which is a shame because the band pulls off sweet, unassuming love songs like “Picture You” quite well when they try them. Everything is weighed down with import, and that can become wearying through 14 longish songs. Still, people will relate to the universal doubts and fears that are often stirringly evoked by the music and lyrics on Delta. Mumford & Sons know their strengths and they play to them well here, proving that too much catharsis is better than not enough.