The lyrics on Marcus Mumford’s album, (Self-Titled), strike the listener from the very first track, titled “Cannibal.”
“I can still taste you and I hate it / That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it / You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw / Ripped it in with your teeth and your lips like a cannibal / You f—king animal,” Mumford sings.
This introductory verse sets the tone for the whole album, which centers around Mumford’s experiences, reflections, and attempts to move past the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
The Mumford & Sons lead singer’s first solo album is not only an impressive display of Mumford’s musical ability and storytelling, but it is also a deeply vulnerable and commendable look into his past.
Mumford crafts a cohesive story from song to song through the 10 tracks of the album. “Cannibal” ends with Mumford singing, “Help me to know how to begin again.” This leads directly into the second track, “Grace,” where he starts by lamenting, “Well how should we proceed / Without things getting too heavy?”
Herein lies a major theme of the record: Mumford’s struggle to deal with the knowledge, experience, and resulting trauma of the abuse.
“Grace” also showcases the classic stomp-and-clap folk rock style that Mumford & Sons is known for.
“Better Angels” comes in the latter half of the album and finds Mumford singing about a turning point in his emotional and creative journey.
“It’s alright / I don’t wanna get ’em out of my head / Is this where we begin again?” Mumford sings.
The line is a clear response to Mumford’s plea in “Cannibal,” and he seems to make headway in dealing with his past. An upbeat acoustic guitar and simple production aid the song’s more hopeful lyrics, allowing Mumford to remain the focal point of the song.
Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo accompany Mumford on two tracks—“Dangerous Game” and “Stonecatcher.” Both are superstar artists in their own right, and each harmonizes perfectly with Mumford. The guest artists provide new intricacies and depth to (Self-Titled).
The quietest track of (Self-Titled) is “How,” featuring Brandi Carlile. On this final track of the album, Mumford forgives his abuser.
“But I’ll forgive you now / Release you from all of the blame I know how / And I’ll forgive you now / As if saying the words will help me know how,” Mumford sings.
This tender and beautiful song is a fitting end to the deeply personal and intimate record. Along with a few other songs, “How” juxtaposes silences and soft-spoken moments with powerful, soaring voices and tender words as Mumford looks toward the future.