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This British four-piece has been a buzz magnet overseas for months, heavily dividing critics while drawing comparisons to hipster-friendly acts like Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. Now that their debut full-length has finally reached these shores, it only seems appropriate to pile on a few more, which is why the band’s label says they sound like Crosby, Stills & Nash crossed with Kings of Leon; if you ask me, Sigh No More really brings to mind Nickel Creek fronted by Dave Matthews’ less annoying cousin, but you get the point — this is rootsy stuff, grounded in acoustic guitars, banjos, and other assorted Appalachian instruments. There’s admittedly something a little incongruous about a West London quartet evoking Americana this deliberately, and that — along with the critical cachet enjoyed by similarly minded artists — has led more than a few writers to cynically dismiss the album as opportunistic posturing.
The proof’s in the banjo-pickin’, though, and whether or not Mumford & Sons came by their old-timey affectations honestly, Sigh No More is a nicely engaging listen. There are relatively few surprises in these 12 tracks, but the band does a fine job of moving between front-porch balladry and a swirling alt-rock roar — sometimes within the same song — and the songs are altogether more interesting and less sleepy than anything on, say, the Swell Season’s latest record. If it’s a pose, it’s held artfully enough that it won’t matter much to roots-hungry ears — and in the current musical marketplace, it seems silly to waste much energy arguing against something that at least tries to sound authentic, and manages to offer a dozen solidly entertaining songs in the bargain.