A Wish Granted, Though Not With Haste

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Nicely done, Mumford & Sons, nicely done.

I am just listening through their new CD, Babel (Yes, a week late, but that was through a little negotiation with myself) and the very last track is called “Not With Haste.”  It was very pretty, as are most Mumford songs, but it was a quarter of the way through when I started to recognize some lyrics.  I literally jumped up from my seat and started dancing around in excitement.

I had dreamed of listening to Mumford & Sons sing the song they wrote for the movie Brave by themselves.  On the soundtrack, it’s sung by a young British songstress called Birdy with the boys providing the instruments and background vocals.  The singer’s voice is beautiful and the feel is perfect for the movie.  And while I’m not surprised I didn’t recognize Marcus Mumford’s voice in the background, I really wish I had.  I was so surprised when I read about it somewhere else.  I thought to myself, “How did I not know about this?

So, regardless that the movie version of the song is completely wonderful, I still wanted to hear it performed by Mumford & Sons alone.

Wish granted.  Although, unexpectedly.

“Not With Haste” is like the big sister of Brave’s “Learn Me Right.”  Or maybe, the mother…  Either way, I believe it’s more or less the same song except the movie version uses only one of the verses from “Not With Haste.”  However, it also has it’s own, unique verse.  Interestingly, the words “Learn Me Right” are not found in the version of that title at all.  It’s only in the version entitled something else, that we hear those lyrics.  It’s like the movie version of an “Easter Egg,” a little nugget of information that isn’t essential to enjoying the piece, but adds a little spark for those who know about it.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Now, excuse me while I go listen to it again.

“Not With Haste” performed live:  

“Learn Me Right” featuring Birdy, from the Brave soundtrack:

Video

Dear Believer

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The latest song to take my breath away. “Dear Believer” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Not Mumford & Sons, I know, but I think any fan of the Sons would appreciate it’s simple beauty.

A month or two ago, I watched the vignette/documentary-style film called Big Easy Express. It follows Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show as they ride an old-fashioned train across the U.S., stopping for shows along the route and jamming together as they ride.

The film’s facebook page posted a link to this song today, asking “Wherever you are in the world, take 6 minutes from your day and watch this beautiful performance.” Having loved the music I’d been introduced to in the film, I obeyed.

And….yes. Here I am, trying to spread the good word. Please, please, listen to this gorgeous song. If you’d like a slightly clearer version, here’s a link to the CD recording: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvgVQu2RTwU

My first thought was, if I ever move past deciphering Mumford & Sons songs, this will be at the top of the list.

Thank you! And please, tell me what you think!

Great Minds Think Alike

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Here’s the passage that sounded so much like my own thoughts (though much better said).  It’s from the blog at anirenicon.com.

“Some of you listen to songs and analyze their different parts, I let them wash over me in an uncritical bliss.  On the occasion that I enjoy a song enough to think about it, I’ll listen to the lyrics.  I’ll listen for the words, but I normally return to my pre-analytic, and slightly childish, joy of hearing without listening.

But with The Cave, it’s different.”

http://anirenicon.com/2012/04/20/the-cave-looking-at-the-philosophy-behind-one-of-mumford-and-sons-best-songs/

In Good Company

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On the Mumford & Sons wikipedia page, Marcus Mumford was quoted saying, “[John Steinbeck] talked about how a journey is a thing of its own, and you can’t plan it or predict it too much because that suffocates the life out it. That’s kind of what touring is like. Even though there’s a structure—you know what towns you’re going to, and that you’ll be playing a gig—pretty much anything can happen.”

After starting to interpret the first song, it looks like this will be every bit as true for the blog.  Glad to see I’m in good company.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumford_%26_Sons

The Cave: Part 1

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I decided to start with The Cave because I thought it require some of the least amount of reading while still being a good example of lyrics that reference literature. I wanted to post my first song interpretation as quickly as possible rather than start one that would require a week or more of research. However, as will happen with any endeavor, there will be the unexpected. As I started to dig further into the meaning of The Cave‘s lyrics, it became clear that although Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has some parallels, it is not literally referenced. I reread the Allegory, which I hadn’t done since high school, but did not regret it. It is truly a thought-provoking parable and I would not have been satisfied with my quest had I not revisited it.

I did find several people who revealed, with little room for doubt, the (multiple) pieces of literature that The Cave DOES reference. They include The Odyssey, by Homer; G.K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi and the Book of James, though the latter may be less literal. We’ll have to see…

So, as I eagerly begin reading the unexpected references, or at least their relevant passages, I will share my original thoughts on the song, before I even listen to it again more closely:

This was the second Mumford & Sons song I had ever heard and I ended up liking it even more than the first, Little Lion Man. At the time, one of my favorite things about the band was the lead singer’s voice and I think this song complements it a hundred percent. The instrumentation as well is gorgeous, intricate and engaging. It’s rock enough to make it onto pop radio, yet still holds on to its “rootsy,” folk-feel. Since I love to listen to music like Peter, Paul and Mary (yes, I really, really do), The Weepies and Paul Simon, all with their own unique folksy flavor from very different decades, it’s no wonder that I’ve become so enamored with Mumford & Sons.

Somewhere, I came across a comment that talked about The Allegory of the Cave and I remembered, in a flash, what it was about. We studied the Allegory in Rhetoric, my senior year English class, and although I didn’t remember a lot of it or go back to read it again, I remembered the general gist and saw the theme mimicked in some of the lyrics. This extra layer made enjoy the song even more and consequently, the band. I believe it was soon after this that I bought their CD, Sigh No More. I was pleased to find that I liked every song, although some took a time or two to really appreciate. For example, Sigh No More, the title track, starts out slow and not nearly as catchy as others. It’s the very first song on the CD and I started to regret buying it so impulsively. But then…the song shifts. The introduction ends, the tempo quickens and the tune becomes much more uplifting. I resolved to give the rest a better chance and was quickly infatuated with the whole CD.

After paying close attention to the lyrics during a couple listen-throughs:

I am very bad at listening to lyrics. I just rarely do it. I can know a song for years and never actually process what it’s about. Even if I can sing along with it, I’m usually still not fully aware of what it really, really means.

Take for example Night Moves, by Bob Seger. I had known the song for years and could sing along with quite a bit of it, but I never realized he was talking about…sex. Particularly, having it for the first time. It wasn’t until one of my friends saw him in concert and was talking to me about this song that I put it together.

Of course, once I do take the time to truly hear the lyrics, that epiphany moment is a great feeling. It refreshes a song for me, almost like I’m hearing it for the first time again. On one hand, I’m glad that I listen for the quality of the music rather than just the lyrics, but on the other, I’m ashamed that it seldom crosses my mind. It’s especially weird because my sister is almost the exact opposite. She knows all the lyrics after only a couple of listens and definitely pays attention to what it’s saying. I don’t know why we’re so different, but it always leads to some interesting conversations.

So, after really, truly listening to the lyrics, I’m barely closer to deciphering it. It reminds me of Shakespeare or even Jane Austen. You get a better understanding if you pay attention to the overall feeling rather than the meaning of each individual word or sentence.

To me, it’s talking about questioning what you’re meant to be doing with your life. It starts by talking about someone who is doubting their purpose and is feeling lost. They realize that something doesn’t feel right. It’s dawning on them and they want to step away from the path they’re taking. The singer is saying that he sympathizes, that he knows the feeling and that he’s there to help. He’s going to find his call, too.

The second verse is exceptionally tricky, but I think it’s basically saying that no matter who stands in his way or how much it hurts, he sees what he’s meant to do and he’s going to do it. He’s going to follow his heart, despite his fears.

Then, of course, we come to The Cave. This is where it most closely references The Allegory of the Cave, at least, I thought it did. The singer is saying that when you turn away from what others have told you to be, you’re looking at the world upside down. Everything is going to change and you have to learn to look at it differently. This is the highest, most triumphant part of the song and he is telling anyone who wants to stop him, go ahead, try. But, he needs this and he wants it and he’s going to make it happen.

And finally, here are the lyrics so you can take a look for yourself:

It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Because I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s land

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Thanks for letting me discover these lyrics’ meaning, despite the circuitous route the quest is taking. I expect many of the other songs to have similarly erratic journeys, but I’m excited to take them.

I must apologize now, though it will apply to all posts, for my stream-of-consciousness style writing. I really enjoy writing, and I’d like to go somewhere with it in the future, but I know I’m not the most articulate wordsmith. I can never seem to remember the word I’m looking for and I tend to forget where I’m going mid-sentence. In fact, I just came across a blog post that said almost the exact same thing I did about not listening to lyrics, although he did it much more eloquently. But practice makes perfect, right? How can I get better at something if I don’t “exercise”?

So, the rest of this journey will be posted later. I have some reading to do…

Introduction

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The message behind the lyrics to Mumford & Sons’ The Cave was one of the first reasons I started to follow the band.  I came across a comment, probably while watching the music video on youtube, that talked about how the song was alluding to Sophacles’s The Allegory of the Cave.  I remember the general gist of the allegory from high school English.  Intrigued, I took a closer look.  I loved the song from the first time I heard it, but uncovering a deeper meaning brought me closer to Mumford & Sons and the rest of their music.

I have since become aware that The Cave is not their only song to reference a classical piece of philosophical literature.  And even the songs that don’t make these references are still filled with intriguing lyrics.

I have to admit that I often forget to listen to lyrics.  I can listen to a song so many times that I can sing with it, word for word, and still not know what it is really saying.

I realized that I want to take a closer look at all of the band’s music, song by song.  But I’m excited at the idea of posting my thoughts, revelations and discoveries.  I’ll be reading just as many interpretations as I will be forming my own and I’d love to share the results.

Mumford & Sons can be enjoyed simply for their sound, but I think they deserve deeper thought as well.