Seduced as I was by The Trials of Van Occupanther, in all of its ethereal, autumnal, Nick Drake-era glory, I waited in my human cocoon for the follow-up. On February 2 the new record, The Courage of Others, unleashed Midlake’s patented brand of folk rock unto the masses, but with a slight shift—rewinding a decade when it comes to sonic inspiration—and now the lyrics come lined with a political agenda: a call to eco-conscious arms. Even earthier than before, the album ebbs and flows like tides, or waxes and wanes like the phases of the moon, and hypnotizes with chant-like harmonies and delicate instrumentation. With an atmosphere both baroque-infused and enchanted, this record could serve as the ideal soundtrack to a soul-searching walk through the woods, wherein you would not be surprised to encounter a Minotaur prancing along the forest floor.
This is the stuff that legends are made of—and, despite the obvious influences, this is not a derivative band; in fact, they’ve forged new ground. NPR, who is streaming the entire record before its release, accurately states that “the music of Midlake has set a tone heard on records from Bon Iver, Blitzen Trapper, and Fleet Foxes, among others.” That it’s a sound that’s truly their own has never been more apparent: flutes cohabitate with electric guitars on “Small Mountain,” and the result is, for lack of a better word, effective. Midlake has jettisoned all of today’s trends to produce a sound that both exists outside of time and is utterly timely, like a slightly melancholy wood nymph’s beautifully crafted response to the Republicans’ claim that climate change is a myth. Here’s to mythical-sounding music that’s grounded in hard reality and takes a stand. Midlake plays the Great American Music Hall tonight.
What: The Courage of Others
Where: Denton, Texas
Why: “If all that grows starts to fade, starts to falter / Oh, let me inside, let me inside, not to wait / Great are the sounds of all that live / And all that man can hold.”
How: Bella Union