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Midlake - The Courage Of Others

A studied, careful record that never rushes to make its point.

Midlake

’s languid third album ‘The Courage Of Others’ ushers the listener into a dreamlike world far removed from the ills of modern day, one where life (and music) slows to a crawl and simple, eternal acts are celebrated and studied, instead of passed over for the lure of bright lights and vacuous celebrities. It’s an understated, hushed record that still packs an emotional impact, both through Tim Smith’s wistful vocals and lyrics, but also by the moody, minor-chord flourishes of the music itself. There is nothing on ‘The Courage Of Others’ that will overwhelm or startle anyone, instead it’s a much more subtle affair than that, with the band crafting a benign, nostalgic sensation within these songs that linger long after you’ve stopped listening.

The delicate acoustic thrum of ‘Acts Of Man’ sets the natural, unhurried tone of the album straight away, with Smith’s restrained, hushed vocals requiring the listener to pay attention if they want to hear what he sings of. While clearly echoing the 70’s folk-rock sound, Others proves to be an entirely timeless album that exists without any defined orientation or locale, something beyond the constant buzz of modern day but also much more current than any of their influences. ‘Winter Dies’ seems to be trying its damnedest to usher in spring despite what the calender claims, with the soaring chorus spiraling heavenward as if in prayer. It represents not only the loudest point on the record but the longest song as well, with the electric guitar parts blending seamlessly with the flutes and swelling drums, fashioning a stirring, passionate centerpiece to the record that Midlake continue to build on as the album plays on.

There is a continual sense of discovery threaded throughout ‘Others’, as if the band and the listener have committed to a journey that, while not necessarily physically or musically expansive, still proves vast in scope and sentiment; an inward odyssey rather, filled with contemplation and introspection. Either way, we all come out changed from the experience. The songs are all elegant and organic, not at all impetuous or hurried, and never promise more than they can actually deliver. Simplicity is the key here, for while things never get too adventurous musically, they hook you anyway through their sheer, fragile nature. The acoustic charm of ‘Small Mountain’ and ‘Fortune’ are pure and restrained, with an inherent, ageless appeal that proves to be quite impossible to resist.

The defiant lines ‘I only want to be left to my own ways’ reverberate through the entire album as well as the subversive song from which it comes, ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’. The Denton, Texas band simply isn’t going to conform to any outside expectations or pressure-their methods and madness are secure enough, thank you. ‘Children Of The Grounds’ is the closest you’re going to get to a sequel to ‘Roscoe’, so quit waiting for the band to repeat themselves. This is an entirely new exercise, and those that lack the patience or the attention span that an album like this requires will surely pass this over without a thought. But they will inevitably miss a record that is full of subtle beauty and real emotional depth.

The electric guitars that usher in the start of ‘The Horn’ bare an uncanny resemblance to Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’, but the song quickly discards any similarity to the grunge anthem, shifting gears to a more serene, thoughtful tone, while paving the way for the poignant vulnerability of the title track that ushers in the close of the album. Smith reveals an insecurity and a searching nature within this song, and the entire album for that matter, that is alluring and captivating, bringing the listener with him on his quest for truth and authenticity. The finality of the subject matter of ‘In The Ground’ finishes the record on a bit of a somber note, but pulses with a hopefulness and a promise that everything can be reborn or renewed by the natural world. ‘The Courage Of Others’ is ultimately a studied, careful record that never rushes to make its point, instead revealing the splendor concealed within its songs slowly in hushed, luxurious tones that don’t ever overpower the listener, but never fail to leave a lasting impression.

Tags: Midlake, Reviews, Album Reviews

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