September 7, 2006

Midlake's The Trial of Van Occupanther

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The Trials of Van Occupanther, Texas-based Midlake’s sophomore album, is nostalgic for what there is no longer any nostalgia about, and as a result, is one of the loneliest albums I’ve heard in a while. Bamnan and Slivercork, Midlake’s first album, featured a futuristic, exciting, Flaming Lips type sound. Van Occupanther, named for the protagonist in a series of loosely linked songs, has a sound that is folky but colonial.
The album seems to regress to some frontier town in1891. The 1900’s is not a century that many of Midlake’s listeners will have nostalgia for, and as such, the album alienates the listener. Many of the songs are about the trials of frontier life – building houses out of stone, marrying a young, unwilling bride, a roof that leaks – and, as such, the loneliness increases. All in all, Tim Smith’s vocals are as immaculate and the harmonies are as multi-layered as ever. The overall sound is enjoyable, but in the end, you wish this album had been a bit more productive like Bamnan and Slivercork.