Midlake’s fourth album taps into a 60s psych revival trend which has spawned some really great albums in the past few years. Bands like Tame Impala and Fleet Foxes and more recently Temples play around with the well-worn ‘60s folk and rock conventions and rearrange them to make them relevant and interesting. This is something that Midlake have been doing for over a decade and it seems they have mastered the whole ‘psych’ thing musically.
Aesthetically and concept wise they’re steady and dependable. It is when this musical concept is coupled with great songwriting that this album really shines.
The album can be summed up pretty neatly by a lyric in the chorus of second track ‘Provider’, a song which showcases the band’s musical talents and lyrical whimsy.
The song moves along on top of a looping beat, painting a scene with a rich musical arrangement of organ, synth and soft guitar. “Follow me down a foxhole in the ground, don’t delay.” All the musical elements here combine to make it feel like an escape into an earthy, strange and soothing world. At times on this album, that lyric sounds wonderfully tempting, and becomes a completely immersive experience, but at other times it sounds too rehearsed, too polished. And when the instrumentals fade to expose the bare songwriting and uninspiring melodies, which form the backbone of half the songs on this album, you are jolted from that immersive experience.
It seems torn between being a great instrumental album, prizing highest how the instruments sound together (which is often a glorious mix), and being a straight ‘rock’ album.
Enough points on this album suffer from being caught in this compromise to make it disjointed, but there are some absolute beauties in the confusion. The album opener and title track is a great example of how all the elements that Midlake bring to this genre can combine to make not only a catchy song, but an utterly bewitching one too. The album peaks on the brilliant ‘Vales’, where Midlake use every instrument at their disposal to create a kind of condensed jam freakout thing, a joyous romp which should go on for far longer than it does. At times delicate and decorated with flutes, it also rocks the hardest out of all the songs on here, reaching a huge crescendo helmed by a storming bassline.
While some people would dismiss this kind of music for being over-indulgent, it is a lack of indulgence that exposes the weaknesses in many of these songs, but that is not to say that there is nothing at all to get lost in here.
Download: ‘‘Antiphon’, ‘Vales’, ‘This Weight’