Midlake, The Courage of Others

Midlake, The Courage of Others

It’s been four years since Midlake’s very successful The Trials of Van Occupanther put the Denton quintet on the indie rock map. Fans who’ve been chomping at the bit for new material can now rejoice, as the former UNT jazz students have released their newest album, The Courage of Others. However, those expecting Van Occupanther Part 2, beware; this is something very different.

One can never accuse Midlake of pulling a Coldplay by lazily repackaging the same album over and over again.  It’s hard to draw any comparisons between the low-fi, sepia-toned sound of Milkmaid Grand Army, the ’60s folk-rock-inspired Van Occupanther, or the psychedelic indie-rock stylings of Bamnan and Slivercork; The Courage of Others is no different. While the previous albums had a strange and bizarre beauty, The Courage of Others is a more heavy-hearted album.

Take the hauntingly beautiful “Bring Down,” in which singer Tim Smith laments, “When the amber skies are filled / Seems the days around are ripe for conquering / Now the joy has burned out.” It’s not just the subject matter that’s bereaved, but the instruments  themselves take on a much darker and older sound, too.  It’s an album that inspires thoughts of medieval folk music or the rolling, rain-drenched hills of ancient England, a point that’s really driven home in the 10-second introduction of “In the Ground.”

Midlake adheres to this style throughout, which gives The Courage of Others the overall feel of a concept album. Classic instrumentation, including flutes, a violin, and acoustic guitars, replace more modern-sounding synthesizers and keyboards. Add a heavy dose of vocal harmony, and you’re left with a very weathered but organic sound. There’s no denying the tremendous amount of skill and attention to detail needed to craft this album.

The The Courage of Others can be a bit tiring, however, as there is no real rest from the gloom. It’s hard to sit through and completely listen to the whole, despite gems like “Acts of Man,” “Winter Dies,” and the aforementioned “Bring Down.”

The Courage of Others is an ambitious album and probably is not suited for mass consumption. It requires the listener to really sit and pay attention in order to have a chance  to appreciate the album. This much effort eventually begs the question: can something be good if it’s this difficult? While the anguished tone of the album might have benefited from a lighter song, you have to applaud the band for producing a well-crafted and uncompromising album, even if it’s not for you.

(Bella Union -- 120-124 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3SQ, ENGLAND; http://www.bellaunion.com/; Midlake -- http://www.midlake.net/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Monday, May 24th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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