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 Midlake

American Rock Band

Bamnan and Silvercork (2004)

The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006)

The Courage of Others (2010)

 

 

 

Midlake

 

Bamnan and Silvercork - 5

They Cannot Let It Expand/ Balloon Maker/ Kingfish Pies/ I Guess I'll Take Care/ Some of them were Superstitious/ The Reprimand/ The Juggler/ He Tried to Escape/ Mopper's Medley/ No One Knew Where We Were/ Anabel/ Mr Amateur

This album would get low marks for having a naff title. Try to remember this one when you are visiting the record store. It's very much a lo-fi production and almost an experimentalist approach that drops somewhere around Mercury Rev territory. Certainly not a bad album, but one where the band seem to be trying to find their way. There are hints of the atmospheric, tuneful songs to follow but it's all a little too low key to be memorable.

 

The Trials of Van Occupanther - 7.5

Roscoe/ Bandits/ Head Home/ Van Occupanther/ Young Bride/ Branches/ In This Camp/ We Gathered in Spring/ It Covers the Hillsides/ Chasing After Deer/ You Never Arrived.

A deliciously tuneful piece of Americana as Midlake go commercial without losing any of their originality. There is such a good feeling to this album that it sends one scurrying to find comparisons. And the musical influences shriek out. There's more than a passing nod to the west coast harmonies of the likes of Crosby, Stills and Nash and even more of a nod to Fleetwood Mac in the beautiful harmonies. This group of Texans certainly know how to soft rock and this album is up there with Fleet Foxes as one of the best of the last few years. It never gets dull and there's a plethora of beautiful melodies, backed by some fine instrumental backing. There's also a rather sparse stripped down feel to it. At times it is so beautiful that it almost hurts.

 

The Courage of Others - 7.5

Acts of Man/ Winter Dies/ Small Mountain/ Core of Nature/ Fortune/ Rulers, Ruling All Things/ Children of the Grounds/ Bring Down/ The Horn/ The Courage of Others/ In the Ground

There is a thematic feel to Midlake's third album - an album four years in the making. It is undeniable that the roots of this album lie in British Progressive folk rock with more than a nod to the likes of Jethro Tull (at times lead singer Tim Smith uses the same phrasing as Ian Anderson) and the Strawbs. Ultimately this is an album by a letter day band of hippies who seem to have stepped straight out of the 1970s. This could have been played at Woodstock. But there is still a progressive feel to it, although most of the songs are very similar. In some ways that adds to its attraction as it should be listened to as a whole - as if it's a song cycle or indeed just one long song (as Tull said Life's a long song). It's hard to see whether Midlake have taken a step forward or a step forward and two back. That said it is a glorious evocation of the countryside with Smith's plaintiff vocals threatening to soar but staying in check. The overall feel is one of heady atmosphere. This is intelligent folk/rock. It may not be as easily accessible as Van Occupanther, but there are many beautiful moments and it has almost a life affirming feel to it. One of my only criticisms is that Tim Smith's vocals are all too often indistinguishable. Best listened to therefore with a lyrics sheet in front of you.