Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther

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Album: The Trials of Van Occupanther
Artist: Midlake
Ranking: 8.4/10
Label: Bella Union
MP3: - Just check out their myspace page

It’s impossible to keep up with the bloggers. It really is. So many sites, all hearing one MP3 and raving about a band. It makes me wonder how many hours they have in their day, or how much they actually enjoy the music they claim to be listening.

One band that I’ve stumbled across after reading about them on almost every blog out there and really enjoy listening to is the Texas outfit, Midlake. The MP3 that got everyone interested is the amazingly elctro-folky opening track, Roscoe. The "ooohs" and "aaahs" take me back to listening to Rumours. Say what you will about the band, Fleetwood Mac wrote some quality pop songs.

The fantasy and nature friendly content of the lyrics makes you wonder if in the 70’s, these guys froze themselves like Ted Williams family wanted to do to the Splendid Splinter, only to unthaw in time to rock the 2000s. The attention that Roscoe (and the fact they are signed to the amazing Bella Union label) brought to the band jumped them up from Indie rock nobodies to hype machine status and an opening slot for the Flaming Lips European tour. This is funny, because their debut album got numerous comparisons to the Lips, but this album doesn't really go that route. Not a shabby way to get a fan base, but don’t be fooled into thinking these guys are the latest in the one hit hype machine. They have already released a solid EP (1000 copies) and debut album that was well received.

The album, "The Trials of Van Occupanther", is solid from start to finish. I’d be remiss to not mention the eerie similarities between the bands and Fleetwood Mac (minus the Stevie Nicks female vocals) at times. Head Home is a perfect example. The guitars and keyboards mix perfectly with the harmonies and mirror the arrangements Fleetwood Mac.

But they aren’t a one-trick pony, stuck in one sound. At times, the guitars venture into hippie territory at times (busting into distorted solos on Bandits), but I think it works perfectly for the quirky style of pop these guys are playing. The album is a throwback to a style of music sorely lacking in music today. Combining piano and acoustic driven melodies with creative lyrics and subtle instrumentation (like the flute on You Never Arrived or the plucky bass line on Young Bride), Midlake crafts an album that will appeal to a lot of people.

The band also shows a talent for writing early Radiohead/Britpop influenced songs, without leaving the structure and stylings of a 70’s pop influence. The vocals do stumble into the Thom Yorke vane at times (Chasing after Deer, We Gathered in Spring), but never does the band ever come off as a band trying to emulate successful acts. They are just using their influences to create a style no one else is trying. Possibly the best compliment I can give them, is that you’d never guess this band was a USA (Texas) based band.

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