As promised (Apologies that it is a few days late, I'm behind schedule with everything at the moment! Just one of those weeks...) here are my thoughts on the new Midlake record...
The album opens with the magnificent "Acts of Man". This track has been floating around the blogospehere for quite some time now, and I fully expect to see it atop a number of "Best Songs of 2010" lists come next December (C'mon, that's what bloggers are known for! LISTS! Where would we be without them?!) A gorgeous folky song with layered vocals. Haunting. My favourite track on the album still.
Unfortunately that's always a problem for an album. Sure you need a strong opener, but do you really want your record to peak 3 minutes into a 42 minute album??
That is not to take away from the rest of the record mind you. A lot of publications (The Sunday Times, Q Magazine, Uncut Magazine and the Observer Music Monthly are the ones that I've read) are giving this album quite a poor review. They are commending the band's willingness to try something new (a commendation I wish to echo here! Midlake could have easily released a carbon copy of "The Trials of Van Occupanther" and we'd have lapped it up. Instead they attempted a departure from the comfort of their 1970s soft-rock for 1960s British folk, with interesting results), though ultimately the feeling seems to be that it is a failure.
I have to disagree with the aforementioned publications. I feel that while the album may not be of the strength and genius of the last record, "The Courage of Others" is a bold step forward for Denton's finest. I mentioned in my last post that the one thing that really stood out to me was the increase in the number of guitars. This is very noticeable, but it really adds another dimension to the album. It is too rare nowadays that bands attempt to experiment with their sound, many just find their comfort zone and stick with it (And just in case anyone attacks me over this, I am fully aware of bands such as Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective pushing their boundaries, but then consider Vampire Weekend or The Strokes, even the Shins!) While this is not always a bad thing - I for really enjoyed the new Vampire Weekend album, despite its similarity to the debut, we must also embrace the other side of the coin when we are lucky enough to encounter it.
The band themselves claimed that this album has it's roots in the 1960s and the folk music of the era, and while this is largely the case there a number of occasions that they stray into different territory. For example, the guitars on 'The Horn' could have been lifted right off a Led Zeppelin album, while 'Rulers Ruling All Things' smacks of Fleetwood Mac. Whether intentional or not, Midlake managed to blend their original sound with a more rustic folk feel and this is the result.
Anyone who has caught Midlake live will tell you how it is a far different prospect to what may have been expected. Pan-flutes aside, the subdued vocals of the albums are all but drowned out by roaring guitars - an almost homage to the prog and folk of the 1970s. 'The Courage of Others' reflects this.
Midlake have created something special here. It is not of the standard of "The Trials of Van Occupanther" (An album I would gladly give 9/10 or even higher!), while there is also no tracks that really match up to the magic of 'Roscoe' or 'Bandits'. Despite these supposed failings, the album is still a highly enjoyable one. I have played it almost non-stop since buying it on Friday as I find that as a unit it works superbly. I would urge you to buy the album and check it out yourself. Make up your own mind.
Midlake, "The Courage of Others": 7.5/10 [Highly enjoyable, though few tracks stand out classics. Still highly recommended]
Tracks to check out: 'Acts of Man', 'Rulers Ruling All Things' and 'Core of Nature'
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- An Irish based alternative music blog. Music news, gigs, live reviews, album reviews... You'll find them here. If you want anything featured or removed, please shout. I hope you'll discover something new to love on this little experiment of mine. Currently editing the Music Section of the UCC Express and contributing to Motley magazine on campus, as well as writing for PopCultureMonster and 4FortyFour. Always looking for new projects so please get in touch if interested. Thanks for reading.