Had AI Helped Mumford & Sons With the Last Album?


It has been many years since I wrote my last music album review – or any music review, in fact. But the group Mumford & Sons hold a special place in my “music heart”. Therefore while listening to their recently released album Delta, I couldn’t resist and decided to put in writing some of my opinions. Not for a full fledged critique, just first impressions.

When I encountered Mumford & Sons for the first time, it was a real revelation for me. They just won the Grammy in 2013. After years of stale music industry production, these four British guys were showing, that there was still a lot of potential in the popular music. That it still could be very attractive even when played on acoustic instruments, including banjo!

I couldn’t get enough of their first two albums Sigh No More and Babel. Catchy melodies, great musicianship, and interesting lyrics packaged like bluegrass or folk music. My whole family with two small kids would be happily dancing while I would be endlessly playing the DVD from the Road To Red Rocks amphitheater concert.

So I was curious what would come next. Usually the second album is critical for a fast ascending music star. I was thinking that Mumford & Sons had been professional musicians for quite a while before they formed the group. So the third album would be the critical one. And it was!

Unfortunately, the album Wilder Mind in 2015 was a disappointment for me. Mumford & Sons departed from their signature sound, turned to more electronic and heavier music. There is nothing wrong with the rock music, I had grown up on the hard rock. But in that album I was missing those catchy melodies, clever instruments combinations, and happiness. Maybe musicians hadn’t been feeling that happy after all? So I have never come back to this album again.

Suddenly, the new album Delta got released in November 2018. ‘Suddenly’ for me, as I ceased following Mumford & Sons after the previous letdown. I approached this album with caution, so that not another disappointment would get inflicted on my ailing “music heart”…

The first impression was encouraging, when listening to the new single Guiding Light. But after that comes – a bunch of professionally produced songs. Still missing, at least for me, is that gist of Mumford & Sons. The only song that I liked more was Forever. It reminded me of the music from the first two albums, but was also reminiscent of a typical country music ‘anthems’.

While listening to the Delta album, one idea kept returning to my mind. “This is how clever computers, with more developed Artificial Intelligence capabilities, would compose a new Mumford & Sons album”. ‘More developed’ AI than what the technology offers right now, as I have written about in my previous post What Music Technology Wants To Do In Your Head.

I can find almost all the valuable ingredients of Mumford & Sons’ signature sound and handwriting. But when put together, they don’t reach the attractiveness, the power or the uniqueness of the first two albums. If a really clever AI algorithm would be tasked to extract what makes Mumford & Sons music special, and then would try to put all those pieces together in a new way, I am afraid, that resulting music would sound not too far away from what we can hear on the album Delta. There is a lot of well thought through music here. But ‘thinking things through’ is a task for engineers. Musicians’ task is to make music and sounds unique, when they put in their emotions, their souls and hearts! For me, those are ingredients partly missing. Or at least not felt enough.

Someone would say, that the new album needs more listening time and repetitions to ‘get you’. Maybe. But I have been listening to it for the fourth time now. And still cannot easily remember one strong melody, that I would be happy to repeat and sing with Marcus Mumford.

To sum this up, I cannot say that I got disappointed by the last music product from Mumford & Sons. As a listener, I have not been offended, but I was not taken aback, surprised, really pleased. Is that enough? You decide for yourself. I will be hoping for more once the next album gets released sometimes in the future.


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