With production from Blake Mills, the Mumford & Sons frontman goes solo with a hushed, searching record anchored in trauma.
If gentle seems a curious word to describe an album anchored in trauma, it’s also fitting. Mumford’s defining musical gift is his soft touch: Even when Mumford & Sons's signature hit “I Will Wait” ascends to its urgent ending, he’s the earnest, empathetic rock at its center. (self-titled) places these characteristics at the forefront. By choosing to open with the quiet creep of “Cannibal,” a song where Mumford directly addresses his abuser (“I can still taste you and I hate it/That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it/You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw”), he draws a distinct line between the gregarious stomp of Mumford & Sons and his solo work. The atmosphere feels different, too. The lyrics are murmured slowly, deliberately, forcing the listener to lean into the speaker to comprehend the horror unfurling, at which point the tension breaks with a surging, echoing gale of guitars.