by Bill Forman
Buy if you like: The Czars, Fleet Foxes, In the Court of the Crimson King
What a difference an album makes (and, in this case, the four years it took to record and release it). Midlake’s third collection finds the Denton, Texas, band tapping into a sound that British art-rock bands once favored, back before the rise of prog messed it all up. Echoes of Fairport Convention’s “Sloth” and King Crimson’s “Epitaph” infiltrate gorgeously melodic tracks like “Acts of Man” and “Small Mountain.” Tim Smith’s singing has settled into an easy baritone that recalls Richard Sinclair (of Canterbury scene stalwarts Caravan and Hatfield & the North), its depth and resonance reflected throughout all aspects of what’s easily Midlake’s best album. After radically changing its sound and approach twice now, Midlake (who, as evidenced by the photo at right, got onboard the animal head bandwagon early on) is garnering massive critical raves that might finally translate into actual sales, and this record deserves it. Future reinvention is no longer necessary, or even advisable.
Here's a clip of "Acts of Man," which a fan set to creepy footage from a 1927 Murnau film: