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Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.89 | 39 ratings

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3 stars 'The Trials of Van Occupanther' is the 2nd full length studio album from the band 'Midlake'. Released in 2006, it followed their debut album, which was compared to bands like 'The Flaming Lips' and 'Mercury Rev', with a less psychedelic sound and a more folk-ish, classic 70's style sound earning comparison to 'Fleetwood Mac' and even 'Alan Parsons' and the like. The bands strengths like in their vocal harmonies, their periodic use of non-standard melodic structures and use of traditional instruments that still give the album a current vibe.

This album starts out with a track that turned out to be the popular 'Roscoe'. This one is a mid-tempo indie pop style song. This is the track that seems like Alan Parsons with it's standard interesting and catchy foundation not unlike 'Eye in the Sky', but the vocals have that indie vibe to them, vocals that demonstrate an interesting melody and just a little vulnerability. The lyrics introduce the main character of this concept album. The guitars become a bit more intense towards the end of the song.

'Bandits' follows up with an airy and more acoustic sounding track with strummed guitars and piano surrounded with cello, flute, synths and light percussion. Beautiful harmonies are sung on the chorus. 'Head Home' has that pre- Nicks/Buckingham 'Fleetwood Mac' sound, an easy up tempo beat with the light feeling that was present on the 'Bare Trees' album, complete with a fuzzy guitar solo during the instrumental break. In fact, the track would have fit comfortable on that album and no one would have known it was a different band altogether.

'Van Occupanther' moves to the folk sound that the band is labeled under for the Prog Archives site. The flutes and harmonies here, along with the mostly acoustic instruments give it the authentic flavor for that genre with a soft and pleasant sound. A violin starts off the track 'Young Bride' and a tapping drum fades in with the vocals. This is one of my favorites off this album, with a non-standard vocal harmony giving it a unique sound, and an almost gigue-like feel and a unique melody that really grows on you. It is also another one of the singles off the album which could make it familiar to you already.

'Branches' starts off with a solo piano and melancholic vocals. Soon, drums and other instruments join in and things swell as you reach the chorus and lovely harmonies. 'In This Camp' follows with the more mellow verses with sound driven by soft and pensive instrumentals, but the chorus is more intense as the entire band joins in and flows into a more upbeat instrumental break and bridge. This track is more complex as tempos and melodies change more often. The vocals are also reminiscent of Thom Yorke from 'Radiohead'.

'We Gathered in Spring' continues with the more complex melody, but still with the overall mellow feeling. This time the track is driven by strummed guitars and synths instead of piano. 'It Covers the Hillside' returns to a more upbeat track and is driven by a piano riff. The instrumental break starts with a fuzzy guitar, but then suddenly changes to a warbly guitar and synth which seems a bit abrupt. At this point, the formula is starting to sound a bit worn out and a little variety or a change in the feel would have been welcome. 'Chasing After Deer' has some slightly corny lyrics and continues with the same overall sound, and the same is true of the last track 'You Never Arrived'.

With a strong start on the first half of this album, the songs start to sound to similar on the second half and most of the life and emotion of the first half tend to get watered down by following the same pattern. I find that I start to lose interest in the album by the time it reaches the 2nd half, though the harmonies are nice, it tends to also lose the emotional edge that worked so well in the beginning. It is a pleasant album however, and some listeners like that sound, but I would have preferred a little more 'experimenting' in bringing in some variation.

TCat | 3/5 |


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