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The Courage of Others (Bonus Track Version)

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Editors’ Notes

Formed by jazz students who attended the University of North Texas College of Music, Midlake perform an American take on British folk music. Their tight harmonies and minor key brooding give them a sound that’s caught in an English fog looking towards Scotland. “Core of Nature” is great ensemble playing, but it’s singer Tim Smith’s primarily solo vocal on “Fortune” that yields true forlorn beauty. In just two minutes, it sends things back centuries or at least to the ‘60s. “Rulers, Ruling All Things” adds drums and electric guitars for a move towards heavier terrain. “Children of the Grounds” adds an earthy jangle to the winding vortex of black magic harmonies. “Bring Down” throws in a gorgeous descending melody with organ supplying the steady grounding while a simple flute takes things to the sky. “The Horn” works on pure druid magic. The title track sounds like Sebadoh getting back to the land. Not bad for a band from Denton, Texas, or anywhere else.

Customer Reviews

Ignore the Pitchfork Review

... and buy this whole album. The entire album is beautifully performed, the harmonies are gorgeous, and Tim Smith's vocals are understated and wonderful. This is an album of sustained mood and character (I don't think this necessarily mean monochromatic, per Pitchfork). Have patience with the songs and let them unfold. If you are in the mood for it, you will love it. I admire Midlake for not striking an 'au courant' alt pose, (it's OK to not sound like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors - nothing against those bands!) for doing their own thing... this album sounds out of time. If you are looking for another "Head Home" - try "Children of the Grounds" to start.

A Misunderstood Masterwork

Here’s my take without going into detail with individual tracks:

Midlake’s previous full-lengths essentially comprised outstanding singles supported by excellent, if slightly less memorable, album tracks. Midlake could have easily been considered a singles band, but they’ve decidedly taken a more mature approach with The Courage of Others. Just because it’s unrelenting in its somber mood, does not mean it’s monotonous. The culminated effect is more impacting than its constituent parts because it’s meant to be digested as a whole. Its hermetic tone encapsulates Tim Smith’s increasing disillusionment with the world and his desire to reconcile the ever-dissolving relationship between humanity and nature. It expresses discomfiture with the effects of modern conveniences. Close inspection of the lyrics is vital to The Courage of Others’ understanding. Not a single hint of this album ever feels like an afterthought. Every element of this masterwork feels purposeful, measured and beautifully judged while maintaing an organic magnetism that only seasoned musicians can muster. The production is meticulously rendered, and the playing is intuitive, synchronized and impeccably executed. Given this album’s turbulent gestation with initial sessions being scrapped, it’s clear that the finished product perfectly distills the band’s intent.

For the record, that Pitchfork review is one of the most needlessly inflammatory and self-indulgent reviews I’ve ever come across with any given source. People act like Pitchfork is the Supreme Court of the music journalism world-the ones with the end-all, be-all say-so. Pitchfork has its thousands of mindless minions that will obey their every command and heed to their every word. They are nowhere near the best source for music reviews. Unless you just love pompously inflated, contradictory, masturbatory, self-important horses**t that focuses more on the writer’s linguistic capabilities rather than the musical content at hand.

Regardless, I still feel like the naysayers of the album are SORELY missing the point. Much of their dissatisfaction stems from a clear lack of patience and active listening. The lack of surface variation between the tracks is aesthetically chosen, and not resulting from monotony or a band void of inspiration. The Courage of Others is an exercise of restraint. I feel those who are still haven’t gotten into this album should observe with high-end headphones. In this context, it is easier to hear how assiduously constructed each of these songs is. The leaf-strewn density of the arrangements will unveil intensely melodic, richly detailed songs accentuated with superbly understated craft. This album sidesteps explorations in catchy songwriting and instead opts for textured, moody passages of bruised ruminations and stately, worldly afflictions. Casual approaches WILL not and DO not work for this album.

I did not expect The Courage of Others to be so dichotomizing. In the UK, this album has been, perhaps understandably, receiving rhapsodic praise. People should have let the album settle before determining its merit as it requires full, undistracted commitment from the listener for its intricately woven layers to unspool. Otherwise, it is quite easy to be underwhelmed, as many have prematurely claimed. As a result, it has been disappointingly and unjustly maligned in some circles. I am confident between The Trials of Van Occupanther and this latest endeavor, the latter is the much deeper and ultimately more satisfying effort. I have never heard an album with a more unruffled balance of modernity and timelessness. It’s a startling, magical alchemy.

Heavy, Dark Album + Cold Light Beer = Whoa Mama!!!!!

Courage of Others is cumbersome in its ability to circumnavigate your brain so covertly, and dare I say, brilliantly...and then strike without warning three light beers into an otherwise unremarkable Saturday afternoon, penetrating not only into your cerebral cortex, but even deeper...into your soul's soul. And God help you if you drink that fourth light beer. This is an album for people who like albums. And light beer. I like both and that was some Saturday afternoon.


Formed: 2000 in Denton, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The lo-fi rock quintet Midlake were formed in Denton, Texas, in 2000 by a group of musicians who had attended the North Texas School of Music together: Paul Alexander (bass, keyboards), Eric Nichelson (keyboards, guitar), Eric Pulido (guitar, keyboards, background vocals), Tim Smith (vocals, keyboards, guitar), and Mckenzie Smith (drums). They issued their own EP, Milkmaid Grand Army, in 2001, and sold 1,000 copies at their Texas gigs. They attracted the attention of Simon Raymonde, who signed them...
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