When it comes to Mumford and Sons, I’m the kind of fan who can recognize one of their songs as it’s being played in a noisy, crowded pub after the first few chords, who will spastically sprint to the television when I hear they’re giving an interview (nearly decimating the remote as I fumble with it trying to find the right channel, much to the chagrin of my roommates); who will listen to any playlist they recommend (and be rewarded for it by great, new music), and who will drive for hours and cross borders to see them in concert. The closest I’ve come to liking a band this much was with the Barenaked Ladies before Steven Page “left” and before their children’s album.
There are not many albums or songs that I can listen to so frequently and not get sick of them. I think “Ghosts That We Knew” from their new album “Babel”, featured in the video below, has 60 plays on my iTunes, not including all the times I switched the song prematurely. Why? Why did I count down the days to the release of Babel like it was a trip to Disney land? Why do I read the blogs? Why do I wear the shirt? For the same reason a lot of people have favourite bands; because the music forms an expression of the self that can be both comforting and cathartic.
The first time I heard one of their songs was in my residence building in my first year. Like a child to the Pied Piper, I knocked on my neighbour’s door to ask him what song he was playing. The sound was very different from other songs, but somehow it captured how I was feeling that day, and the loneliness I had been feeling since moving to university. It was “Awake My Soul” from their “Sigh No More” album (oddly symbolic in this instance). What drew me to their music that day is what has made me a fan of their music ever since; their music drips with a raw humanness that doesn’t sugar coat emotion. Yet at the same time many of their lyrics offer mediated, insightful thoughts on those feelings, demonstrating a certain degree of self-awareness in emotion.
Everyone has that one band that touches them in a way others don’t. I’ve known people who’ve followed U2 across the country for their whole tour. Imagine how much that would cost! You could go backpacking through Europe for that kind of cash. But it’s not uncommon for people to love a band that much. People really cherish music they feel “understands them”. I sometimes wonder if this is partially because people have difficulty expressing their feelings to others or are too afraid to and so feel lonely or misunderstood. Music provides people with a safe mental space to feel and to express themselves and thus can be good for mental health. For the same reason, the possibilities for feeling-articulation which music provides has the ability to facilitate great change because it can foster unity which is otherwise difficult to achieve.
So much was the case during the 60s with various anti-war songs and bands and has been true for the Live 8 concerts. This moves me to question what other untapped powers might music have for promoting change within society in terms of how each individual interacts with and views one another. Might understanding ourselves and others through music help us to gain a better understanding of our humanness, help erase stigmas against mental health, or help relationships grow?