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What to make of Midlake. A bunch of bearded Texan’s whose sole remit seems to be to sound as much like early 70’s folk proggers Caravan and their Canterbury scene rivals as humanly possible. From their early beginnings as a kind of Fleetwood Mac tribute act, ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ was a lovely, leafy piece of folk magic and ‘The Courage of Others’ delved even further into the murky world of English prog.
Since then main-man and chief songwriter Tim Smith has departed but such a potential career-ending event doesn’t seem to have dented the band whatsoever and they have returned sounding rather remarkably the same. Such inter band turmoil was de rigeur amongst the likes of their heroes Fairport Convention and maybe Midlake are taking influences not just from the music of the era.
The opening couple of tracks are lovely, little bits of Jethro Tull here, Pink Floyd there they sound like a Fleet Foxes who have immersed themselves in English prog folk for a couple of years before starting again. New singer Eric Pulido’s voice is very similar to Smith’s and therefore very similar to that of Greg Lake. The only noticeable difference is the album seems a lot more polished and I’m concerned about the amount of layered keyboards, giving a somewhat Moody Blues feel to proceedings at times. I’d rather they stick to the organic pick and strum of their woody acoustic guitars.
Like Fleet Foxes the band are sometimes somewhat preposterous in their hippy lyrical whims and the album is a bit ponderous at times, especially on on its latter half, with layered choral vocals, the opening half of closer ‘Provider’ reprise is a reminder of a lot of the goodness of the first few tracks. The departure of Smith has obviously not killed the band off and ‘Antiphon’ is no disaster. Just a little less over-egging would give a more enjoyable, more earthy album.
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- Antiphon by Midlake
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