The second album that has launched them into a new stratosphere of fame, the Hollywood marriage, the snobbish critical derision that comes with being prominently displayed in Tesco — Mumford & Sons are currently having their Coldplay moment. Just as Coldplay’s second long-player, A Rush of Blood to the Head, brought the band global fame and Chris Martin the hand of Gwyneth Paltrow around a decade ago, now the folk-rock quartet are on a similarly dizzying trajectory.
This year, not long after singer Marcus Mumford married actress Carey Mulligan, his band’s second album, Babel, hit No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, the album had almost double the first week sales of the year’s previous biggest release, Justin Bieber’s. They have played as Bob Dylan’s backing band at the Grammys and sung to Barack Obama at a state dinner. Many have criticised their sharecropper outfits, their ubiquitous banjo and this brand of folk that relies more on chest-beating anthems than sensitive guitar-plucking, but many more desire a piece of their sepia-tinted world.
Which is why, heading to a barn dance near you soon, are Mumford’s other sons — the less well-known bands also trading in careworn acoustic music. Like Fifty Shades of Grey knockoffs they largely come packaged in “authentic” waistcoasts and will be marketed hard to the vast Mumfords fanbase, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some fine music to be found here. Saddle up and take your pick.
Mumford & Sons play Dec 11 and 18, O2 Arena, SE10 (0871 984 0002,theO2.co.uk). A deluxe edition of Babel, featuring a live CD and a concert DVD, is released on Island on Nov 26.
Coming closest to the Mumfords’ look and sound, and approaching their popularity levels too, this Denver trio have sold a million copies of their single Ho Hey. It’s a ballad augmented by mandolin and shouting that is one of the year’s loveliest songs and may even manage to maintain a good reputation despite its appearance on a new electricity advert. Sounding as rustic as a pasty, their acoustic music includes contributions from cellist Neyla Pekarek, while Wesley Schultz’s singing has the slightest rasp to stop them from sounding too polished. Handclaps and simple rhythms, reminiscent of Marcus Mumford’s thumping foot drum, add to the campfire feel. (thelumineers.com)
Hear this: Album The Lumineers, out Monday on Decca
See this: Supporting The Civil Wars Nov 6, Roundhouse, NW1 (0870 389 1846,roundhouse.org.uk); headlining Nov 12, Koko, NW1 (0870 432 5527, koko.uk.com); Feb 20, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 (0844 477 2000,o2shepherdsbushempire.co.uk)
Of Monsters and Men
Operating firmly at the rabble-rousing end of the folk-rock spectrum, this year this Icelandic sextet have become more successful chart-wise than even their best-known neighbour, Björk. If you don’t know the name, you’ll be familiar with their hit song Little Talks, its exuberant horns and hollered vocals making for one of the catchiest singles of recent months. Elsewhere, dual singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Raggi Pórhallsson share vocal duties in a way that has also seen them compared to a more upbeat Arcade Fire. Though they lack the otherworldly oddness of Iceland’s previous musical exports, they make up for it with huge hummable tunes. (ofmonstersandmen.is)
Hear this: album My Head is an Animal, out now on Island
See this: March 5-7, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 (0844 477 2000,o2shepherdsbushempire.co.uk)
It’s odd that sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor hail from Watford, given that they sound as if they should be singing from the back of a trailer in Thirties Oklahoma. Though a long way from Mumford & Sons’ strident sound, the old timey, O Brother, Where art Thou? feel to their songs seems to come from the same world. It’s all about the voices, sweet harmonies over a barely-there acoustic backdrop singing lines such as: “Time may spin and years may pass, the song is still the same.” Having first appeared on Tom Jones’s 2010 gospel album Praise and Blame, singing backing vocals, they’re making a deserved move to the foreground with a beautiful debut album this month. (thestaves.com)
Hear this: Album Dead & Born & Grown, out Nov 12 on Atlantic
Little Green Carshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua7OT1nmWFU
It’s still early days for this Dublin quintet, who formed when they were just 15, but they’ve already made the right connections. They’re newly signed to Glassnote, Mumford & Sons’ label in the US, and their debut album will be produced by Markus Dravs, who’s worked on the most recent albums by Mumfords, Coldplay and Arcade Fire. They’ve got a heavier sound than the other bands on this page, with a slow-moving, distorted electric guitar dominating their first single The John Wayne, yet the warm group harmonies on this and other tracks such as River Song put them in the same Americana ballpark. (facebook.com/littlegreencars)
Hear this: single The John Wayne, out Nov 26 on Universal-Island
Mumfords’ choice for support band on their upcoming arena tour is this California-roots rock quartet, who used to be an edgier indie band until one songwriter left and they discovered checked shirts as an option. Named after the fiddle-playing grandfather of brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Dawes Lafayette Goldsmith, they’ve said that “all the music we’ve been inspired by was made right here in California. We pride ourselves on that.” They’ve been credited with helping to revive the Laurel Canyon sound of the Seventies. Jonathan Wilson, the producer of both their albums, North Hill and last year’s Nothing is Wrong, is a kind of fifth member and an acclaimed songwriter in his own right in the same scene. (dawestheband.com)
Hear this: Album Nothing is Wrong, out now on Loose
The old timer of this bunch, low-voiced Martha’s Vineyard singer-songwriter Mason was doing well in the middle of the last decade (his 2005 single Oxygen is an inspirational cult classic) but lost momentum having released nothing since 2007. He’s still only 27 though, and lately he’s popped up on the Mercury-nominated album by soul singer Lianne La Havas and is benefiting from a friendship with Mumford & Sons — he’s just finished an Australian tour with them. His third album finally appears in December, led by the breezy strum of the comeback single, I Got Gold. It’s his first release on Fiction Records, which specialises in taking the careers of longer-running bands such as Elbow and Snow Patrol to the next level. (willymason.net)
Hear this: Album Carry On, out Dec 3 on Fiction
See this: Dec 5, The Scala, N1 (020 7833 2022, scala-london.co.uk)