Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
Released July 25th, 2006
Bella Union Records
" I'm not sure where this river goes, but we have no choice but to follow. There is smoke in the sky over those trees, let us hope they are kind to you and me. "
The Trials of Van Occupanther, the second full length album by Midlake, surely surpassed expectations when it was released in July. What at first seemed like a band of struggling Jazz enthusiasts has turned into a modern day version of 1970's vintage rock. The band is made up of the ordinary guitar, bass, drum trio with the addition of keyboards using heavily synthesized sound to bring that extra drive to each song. The influences of Radiohead and Fleetwood Mac can easily be heard in the bands' lyrics and sound.
The album opens up with a soft melodic tune, Roscoe, where right away the soft keyboard and drumbeat pulls you in. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, simply because of the keyboard. Not many bands can add in the synthesizer with such consummate sound. Flowing along, the song Bandits shows us the slight influences of bands that utilize a piano and acoustic guitar wonderfully. The intro to this song is mainly acoustic, but the song itself is far from one dimensional. The soft and fluid voice of Tim Smith take the listener on a journey that they probably had not expected to go.
Another standout track on the album, Head Home, marked with its dreary synthesized tone, shows us the vocal range of the entire band. This is the first song where backup vocals are imminent. The voices clash perfectly with the instruments to provide a song that will keep you bobbing your head. The longest song on the album, Head Home features the second synthesizer solo on the album and one of the anomalous qualities that the band has to offer. Of all the tracks on this album, I think the one I enjoyed most was It Covers the Hillside, a song that can truly put you to sleep (in a good way, of course). It's just one of those tunes that you listen to and know that everything is right. It's a feel good song, for sure.
My absolute favorite aspect of this piece of music is the guitars. Eric Pulido and Eric Nichelson have finely tuned their guitars to create a fantastic, melodic sound. When I first listened to the album, it seemed like there was a guitar solo and a synthesizer solo in each song. I thought maybe it would be too much time spent on solos, not enough on the music. But upon a second listen, it's really evident how much this band relies on the solos to make good music... and thank heavens they have, because it payed off. The guitar solos are one of a kind. I strongly advise purchasing this album, this band deserves to be noticed for their hard work. They have put out one of the most unique albums of 2006, something that more bands need to do.
Standout tracks: Roscoe, Bandits, Head Home, It Covers the Hillside, Chasing After Deer
Midlake is Tim Smith (vocals, keyboards), McKenzie Smith (drums), Paul Alexander (bass), Eric Nichelson (guitar), Eric Pulido (guitars), and Evan Jacobs (keyboards).