midlake the courage of others
  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2010

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Midlake mixes 1960's business with pleasure on The Courage Of Others, sounding like a record unstuck in time and universally appealing. Channeling acid rock, Jethro Tull, and their contemporaries, as well as weaving their well-veiled Radiohead influences boils into something thick and intriguing. This is a band that sounds like it has its own mythology, mellowed and very Fleetwood Mac-ish in their harmonic constructions, with rock flute, and full of fog. The guitar parts sound like intricate little steam-punk machinery. If you could bottle an aesthetic like renaissance paintings and listen to it, then you'd get something like Midlake. It kind of makes me want to run around in the woods for a while without a cellphone. As you can see, the details are all over the place.

This kind of reminds me of the first time I heard Jethro Tull and had to deal with the complex emotions of realizing that's a flute and that's awesome at the same time. But this style isn't akin to the flute solo from Anchorman. Midlake has mellowed out a bit, especially if your knowing them is based on "Roscoe", the fiery first track on their last record (or on a mix CD someone gave to me last year). Where "Roscoe" has forward momentum, this record is content in staying put. The songs have an undercurrent of magic/trance inducing noises that turn your brain off.

Obviously the acoustic guitar and flute play big roles in the level of chill, but even the electrified numbers seem to float rather than soar, and it's not always a bad thing. "Acts Of Man", for example, is just as lively as the electrified "The Horn" (neither is particularly lively, and both are standouts in my opinion). But Midlake has this knack for creating climactic moments with minimal pomp, which really lends itself to the acid folk rock feel of Courage. "Winter Dies" does it with instrumental layering. Even the subject matter is appropriate. A few random phrases that struck me: "I will trade my feet/to go on..." "into blood, into bone" "the valley where the fortunes grow". Striking, poignant, simple. All great words to have attached to your tunes.

It seems easy to slap on the label "pastoral" and move on, but those lazy enough to stop there or short-sighted to explore the sound deeper will miss the incredible snack platter of influences, compounding and weaving together in an infinite loop. That, to me, is the grand appeal of Midlake, a band that has ventured everywhere from classic rock to Russian art in creating their tapestry of sound and imagery. It's an inverted impressionist piece: standing far away you see the complete image, sure, and it all blends together. But up close&mdash with every detail exposed and comprehensible&mdash you see the full intention and execution. And it's a very pretty picture.-joe puglisi

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MP3:"The Acts Of Man" - The Courage Of Others
Midlake on Myspace

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