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Midlake: The Courage Of Others



Album: The Courage Of Others
Label: Bella Union

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Texas folk-rock band Midlake has a name that’s unremarkable at first, but grows on contemplation. It’s descriptive, really—a one-word summation of how the band makes its fans feel. Aside from the obvious comparisons to Steeleye Span, Fleetwood Mac, and Radiohead, Midlake’s sound is less about its influences than the atmosphere it creates: akin to being stranded in a dark place, unsure whether to search for a way out or get used to the surroundings. The title of the band’s third album, The Courage Of Others, is similarly rich. Why “others,” exactly? Is the title intended as a salute, or to confess a lack?

There’s certainly some element of the confessional to The Courage Of Others. The sense of coming clean is inherent in melodies that sound like they were derived from Old World hymns, as well as in the way frontman Tim Smith sings about how he “used to feel” in the squalling “Winter Dies,” or how he once spent time “thinking the world was mine to be lost in” in the alternately plaintive and restless “Rulers, Ruling All Things.” The Courage Of Others has its moments of comfort, like the warm, acoustic “Fortune,” and its moments of deep shadow, like “Bring Down,” which evokes the creepy paganism of the original The Wicker Man. Some songs, like the title track, resemble fleeting thoughts—set to music that sounds like a sunset reflected in the ripples of a pond—and others, like the insistent “The Horn,” recall a preacher warning about eternity.

Coming after the hauntingly archaic The Trials Of Van Occupanther, the more personal The Courage Of Others is bracing—stunning, even. Last time out, Midlake invited listeners to flip through photos of the distant past. This time, they transport us there, and leave us with no easy exit.