In light of the exponential number of one-hit wonders in this day and age in the music industry, Mumford & Sons takes its interpretation of folk in a new direction with a breakout single entitled “Little Lion Man.”
The debut album Sigh No More broke in the U.K. in 2009, not hitting U.S. charts until August of this year after the band played a slew of summer festivals. However, both countries’ listeners responded with great acclaim.
Sigh No More packs a folksy punch that is both abrasive and reserved in the same breath. Up and down songs from the album – “Dust Bowl Dance” for one – can drive a point home and get the listener out of their seat, while providing moments for quiet reflection. “Little Lion Man” on the other hand is upbeat and moving from the get-go.
It immediately sets a toe-tapping tone in the beginning with a fast acoustic riff backed by booming drums, simple piano and a slight plucking on the banjo. Compared to slower songs on the album, it’s the fastest and most controversial in some respects.
Vocalist Marcus Mumford touts that, “… it grabs you a little by the balls …”
The song summons feelings centered around an atmosphere of regret, settling somewhere in the depths of the aftermath of a terrible break up. Essentially, it narrates a broken heart when reflection begins to take hold. The lover who has lost everything delves into the darker side of life and makes that attempt to wonder what the fuck happened.
Mumford breaks himself down in this song. “But it was not your fault but mine/And it was your heart on the line …” He rips himself apart and damns himself for the fucked up things he did. He leaves an air that it’s easy to destroy yourself when the smoke has all cleared and there is no more guessing about who did what.
In the folk music sense, Mumford makes a point of putting his feelings on the table without revealing the true reason behind his ilk. In an interview, Mumford takes responsibility for his slight of hand in a sense.
“It’s a very personal story, so I won’t elaborate upon it too much. Suffice to say, it was a situation in my life I wasn’t very happy with or proud of.”
The mystery surrounding the song adds to the beauty of the music.
The bridge builds into harmonic fusion landing squarely on the soul, providing a solid platform for reflection. “Little Lion Man” even comes complete with a few f-bombs that could take the listener in many directions. Some see it as necessary and some agree that it could be left out.
All in all, dropping the ball on a good situation could lead to a resounding “Fuck!” Having a painfully obvious expletive in the lyrics lends a hand to something that may be otherwise hard to explain. There is poetry behind our dirty cousin the f-word.
When the song finishes, it’s a neatly drawn wave crashing over the empty beach of the heart. The sun has set and the downtrodden are left standing alone.
Mumford plants seeds of doubt and regret and slows the mind into a dark place.