The religious overtones on Mumford & Sons' sophomore album come as no surprise. Though 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 U.K.). 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 last 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.) But what the album leaves you with is the image of a little lion man, rattling his ever-expanding cage.