Dear Christian: Sigh No More

As if four vocalists, two drum sets, guitars, organ and piano aren’t enough, Mumford & Sons also employs banjo, dobro, mandolin, and well-crafted lyrics to pierce their listener with sublime melodies.

A brand new folk indie-rock band based out of London, Mumford & Sons‘ first album, Sigh No More, was released in the US by Island Records on February 16th, but since its October release date in Europe, it has already made the BBC’s Record of the Week and reached #1 on the Australian Albums Chart and #7 on the UK Albums Chart.

Strains of other artists such as Sufjan Stevens and the Fleet Foxes can be heard in their sound, which neatly blends technical intentionality with a nearly tactile passion. Harmony and musical craftsmanship overflow in the tracks, which you can preview on iLike, serving only to enhance the emotional intensity of the album. Displaying mastery of utilizing dynamics—that is, orchestration of volume—as well as their instrumental arsenal, Mumford & Sons weaves tracks brilliant both in and of themselves, but and as soundtracks for the deep, narrative poetry normally known as ‘lyrics’.

In a word, Mumford & Sons is worth a listen.

Band member Marcus Mumford’s parents are head of the Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdom–this perhaps partially explains why the lyrics address spiritual issues while also maintaining a fierce and raw affirmation of life.

Nevertheless, the affirmation is accompanied by a pain—perhaps even a bitterness—towards the faith that the narrator has evidently abandoned. In the song “The Cave,” we can hear Mumford cry this simultaneous ‘Yes’ to life and ‘No’ to his past:

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

Oh 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 hand.
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.

As in “The Cave,” Sigh No More conveys a consistent criticism of religious faith, though it never names Christianity specifically: it makes people sigh—it is, as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would say, ‘life-denying’. Even in this penitential season of Lent, the critique is worth taking seriously. We know that Christians are called to a life of self-denial, but do we equally make known the self-affirmation arising from self-denial? In other words, is our Christianity a form of self-cannibalism, or a healthy dietary regimen? Practicing self-denial is for the end of spiritual health, not spiritual emaciation–which do our lives demonstrate?

Sigh No More is an honest reflection on faith that I would encourage any Christian to examine.  When Mumford promises, “And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. / And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears,” he conveys a true human desire that we should fully identity with–the desire for peace and the ability to rest in the vulnerability of love. We can affirm this desire and point to its full realization in Jesus Christ. By holding to this hope, I believe we’ll learn how to sigh no more. ‘