If you play it, they will come. That's pretty much been the M.O. of British folk strummers Mumford & Sons, who've been giving their fans sneak peeks at their second album, Babel, for most of 2012. And, boy, did they return the favor.
In fact, thanks to the fervent support of those Mumheads, the group notched the biggest debut week of the year with sales of 600,000, according to figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan. Not only is it the band's first #1 album, but it's the first for their independent label, Glassnote Records. Founder Daniel Glass told MTV News last week that he was anticipating healthy sales, but that the humble band wasn't likely to even ask him about where Babel ended up on the Billboard tally.
"I promise you they won't ask, 'how many did we sell?'" Glass said. "I think they'll be proud, but it's not in their DNA. They love to play and they couldn't wait to play more music live."
According to Billboard, Babel hit a number of other high notes: Best debut of 2012 (besting Justin Bieber's Believe (374,000), Biggest sales week for a rock album since 2008 (AC/DC's Black Ice (784,000) and four top 10 singles on the Alternative airplay chart, including a #1 on the Rock Songs airplay chart with "I Will Wait."
They also put up the second-largest week for a digital album, selling 420,000 downloads, second only to Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which moved 662,000 last year.
Mumford had plenty of company when it comes to new faces in the top 10, chief among them long-running punk trio Green Day, who hit #2 with the first of their planned trilogy of albums, ¡Uno!, which sold 139,000. Just behind were another veteran band, No Doubt, whose first album of new material in 11 years, Push and Shove, sold 115,000.
Other new faces included Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 (#5, 89,000) and EDM superstar Deadmau5's >Album Title Goes Here< (#6, 58,000).
The rest of the top 10: last week's #1, Pink's The Truth About Love (#4, 94,000), the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer (#7, 55,000), Dave Matthews Band, Away From the World (#8, 36,000), Little Big Town, Tornado (##9, 34,000) and the Killers, Battle Born (#10, 31,000).
How good a week was it for the Mumford crew? Their 2010 debut, Sigh No More, jumped 17 spots to #12, as sales picked up by 73 percent to 27,000.
Carly Rae Jepsen's Kiss had a rough second week, dropping 14 spots to #20 as sales were off 65 percent to 16,000, while indie favorites Grizzly Bear has a steeper decline with Shields, which swooned 25 slots to #32 in its second week as sales trailed off by 67 percent to just under 13,000.
Over on the iTunes singles chart, Taylor Swift was at it again, climbing to #1 with "Begin Again," followed by viral superstar Psy's "Gangnam Style," Ke$ha's "Die Young," Maroon 5's "One More Night," Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Fun.'s "Some Nights," Rihanna's "Diamonds," Enrique Iglesias' "Finally Found You," Alex Clare's "Too Close" and Flo Rida's "Whistle."
Mumford ruled the iTunes album chart, besting Fiasco, No Doubt, Deadmau5, Cruel Summer, Pink, Green Day, their own Sigh No More, Jake Owen's Endless Summer and Dave Matthews Band.