#830 Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther

This is American folk rock from Texas signed to the British label Bella Union, and Midlake make the kind of soft light-indie song-led rock you’d expect from a band signed to Bella Union. That’s not meant to sound disparaging, I own and listen to much of their catalogue output.

This is extremely comforting music, effortlessly so, and therein lies the skill. To make music that sounds this smooth and wholesome (I’ve made that sound like peanut butter!) with beautiful melodies and harmonies and a genuinely timeless quality to it is an incredible feat. Quite rightly, this album (their second) shot them to global fame.

Although this is the sound that small city America has been making forever, with echoes in both Neil Young and R.E.M., it’s clear that the mid-70s soft-rock of Buckingham-Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac is very appealing to many people.

It’s a great album, it glides effortlessly, the arrangements are perfect, the lyrical subject matter is an introspective look at living on the land, featuring harvests and hillsides and forests and farmers. The only downside is, it glides effortlessly. You’d be hard-pressed to remember the lyrics afterwards or find yourself singing along in the shower. It does have a dark heart, but its hard to actually hear it. A song like Young Bride would sound very different in Nick Cave’s red right hand, for example. The album cover hints at that rural darkness, but you have to listen very very closely to hear it.

Best Bits: We Gathered In Spring
Genre: American Folk Rock
Like This, Try This: The Gallows Pole, a book by Ben Myers, and here the playlist that he created to ‘accompany it’. I think it’s the British equivalent of the sort of quiet rural horror that’s hinted at (gently) in some of these songs.

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