Delta Mumford & Sons Dew Process/Universal British band Mumford & Sons primarily is known among a crop of indie acts that, about 10 years ago, made the banjo seem cool again. But if there’s a banjo on this latest album, Delta, it’s hard to spot. The group’s fourth release sees a deeper foray into electronics and more nuanced production — a shift that already started on its 2015 album Wilder Mind. But the move divided fans back then and it may divide fans even further now. There is something almost tender about the quartet’s new offering. Take a song such as Woman, where relaxed electronic beats drift underneath layered, mellow harmonies. But when the lyrics cut through, the spell is broken: it’s another song about a man adoring but failing to understand another person — a woman, of course. This interest in love persists through simplified lines such as “Love with your eyes, love with your mind” and “Do it for yourself, do it for the girl”.
As keyboardist and vocalist Ben Lovett has said, the album is about “the four Ds: death, divorce, drugs and depression”. It seems like an accurate self-assessment but, 14 tracks later, it also can feel myopic. Mumford has never been particularly strong lyrically but something in the band’s neo-folk is known for giving that warm, cinematic feel. While this is a fleeting occurrence on Delta, when the band finally does tap into the cajoling folk that made it famous, the songs truly start to seem wholesome. While the group obviously can’t keep rehashing its yesteryears, it’s unclear whether Delta heralds any advance or whether it’s a folk band trying on electronic styles for size. It seems that Mumford & Sons wants to move beyond an Americana sound while also indulging it — but it’s having trouble doing both at the same time.