Mumford & Sons, "Babel" (Glassnote)
The religious overtones on Mumford & Sons' second album come as no surprise. Although he's now known as the most visible figure in an international folk revival that also includes North Carolina's Avett Brothers and Iceland's Of Monsters and Men, frontman Marcus Mumford first circulated in the scene around the Vineyard, an international network of evangelical Christian churches (Mumford's parents are leaders of the community in the United Kingdom). So when he notes that "this cup of yours tastes holy," as he does here in "Whispers in the Dark," you figure the guy knows what holiness tastes like.
Steeped in faith though "Babel" may be, that title seems also to get at Mumford & Sons' unlikely rise to fame over the past three years, an experience no doubt as disorienting for the band as new languages were for those biblical tower-builders. In "Holland Road" and "Lover of the Light," Mumford sings of feeling lost and putting up walls, and in "Hopeless Wanderer" he pledges to "learn to love the skies I'm under."
Even as Mumford airs these anxieties, his bandmates bolster him with sweeping arena-roots arrangements that have grown bigger and more muscular since "Sigh No More," the group's multiplatinum 2009 debut. In the foot-stomping title track they sound like they're reassuring Mumford that success is no sin.
MIKAEL WOOD, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Green Day, "Uno!" (Warner Bros.)
Billie Joe Armstrong can't help himself: The Green Day songwriter has attempted to dial down the high-minded ambition and social commentary of his band's last two rock operas, "American Idiot" (2004) and "21st Century Breakdown" (2009). But having set himself the task of writing power-pop punk songs that hark back to such early adrenalized efforts as 1994's "Dookie," Armstrong got a little carried away and wrote enough tunes for not one, not two, but three new albums.
"Uno!" starts off the onslaught, with follow-up "Dos!" due in November and "Tre!" in January. So far, so good: The 12 hard-hitting numbers here consistently deliver the type of tuneful punch that comes naturally to the trio from Berkeley, Calif., who seemingly can knock out at will such radio-ready nuggets as the immediately ingratiating "Fell for You" and the snide "Loss of Control." At times, the basic formula is tweaked -- "Carpe Diem" employs crunchy power chords akin to the early Who to put over its seize-the-day message -- but for the most part, "Uno!" satisfyingly settles for sounding like Green Day did in the first place.
DAN DELUCA, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER