Its been a long time since the Trials of Van Occupanther and its good to have Midlake back. It is said that in intervening time they produced another album but discarded it and started over, The Courage of Others is the result.
Of course there is much to be recognised, the harmonies, the acoustic-ness of it all and the sense that they really must the product of some 19th century Americana/British folk hybrid. As foretold this collection is less optimist-sounding than their last outing which itself wasn’t exactly Beach Boys feel good territory. There is an all pervading melancholia, a sense of wistfulness, loss perhaps or maybe regret, reinforced by the minor chords and the downward key changes and the use of flute throughout. Much of the subject matter revolves around loss of connection with nature, the loss of ways of life and mans ability to make a mess of things. Nor is it an immediate album, a passing listen might not have you rushing to acclaim it.
However it is a strong set and beautifully played, revealing more of itself with repeated listens- Acts of Man and Children of the Grounds, come to the fore. The use of Stephanie Dosen is a welcome addition to some tracks, Ms Dosen is an under-rated talent it seems, first encountered by me as support for Midlake on their last UK tour. The songs perhaps suffer from a certain sameness at least stylistically but there is an unquestionable beauty to the songs and theyreally grow after each listen.
It will be interesting to see how this comes across live, reports of some gigs reflect that perhaps tracks from Van Occupanther are a necessary addition to the set to help with the variety of pace. Perhaps by the time I seem them in Birmingham later this month the benefit of playing this material live for a while will have filtered through.
Obviously no vids yet for the new material, but Roscoe was a class track from the last album…