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Midlake The Trials Of Van Occupanther album cover
3.75 | 45 ratings | 5 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Roscoe (4:49)
2. Bandits (4:04)
3. Head Home (5:45)
4. Van Occupanther (3:15)
5. Young Bride (4:56)
6. Branches (5:02)
7. In This Camp (5:46)
8. We Gathered In Spring (3:33)
9. It Covers the Hillsides (3:14)
10. Chasing After Deer (2:42)
11. You Never Arrived (1:45)

Total time: 44:51

Bonus tracks on 2006 SE:
12. Mornings Will Be Kind (2:48)
13. Marion (2:28)
14. It Covers The Hillsides (Alt. Version) (3:11)
15. Paper Gown (4:33)

Bonus disc from 2016 Anniversary Edition:
1. The Fairest Way (2:59) *
2. Festival (5:17) *

* Previously unreleased

Total time 8:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Tim Smith / vocals, piano, keyboards, acoustic & electric guitars, flute, co-producer
- Eric Pulido / electric, acoustic & 12-string guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
- Eric Nichelson / keyboards, piano, electric, acoustic & 12-string guitars
- Paul Alexander / bass, double bass, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, bassoon
- McKenzie Smith / drums, percussion

- Linda Salisbury / French horn (4,6)
- Josh Ello / violin (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Tim Smith with Tim Carter (photo)

LP Bella Union - BELLAV 117 (2006, Europe)
LP + 7" Bella Union ‎- BELLA 117VX (2016, UK) Anniv. Ed. w/ new cover art; bonus disc including 2 tracks

CD Bella Union ‎- BEU 412 (2006, US)
CD Bella Union ‎- BELLA CD117X (2006, Europe) Limited ed. with 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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MIDLAKE The Trials Of Van Occupanther ratings distribution

(45 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

MIDLAKE The Trials Of Van Occupanther reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Woodsy indie folk-rock with a slight dark tinge

Midlake is an indie rock band from Denton, Texas around since the late 1990s, with three unique and different studio albums to their name. Their middle album is the forest-friendly folk/art-rock collection 'The Trials of Van Occupanther.' While there is little prog to be found here (their next album would be proggier if that matters to you) this album was quite a surprise when I purchased it in 2006. It channels and celebrates some of the best acoustic rock moments of the 1970s, California rock, folk-rock, bands like America, Pure Prairie League, and Neil Young (especially the album 'After the Gold Rush' which carries a very similar vibe-more on that later). This love of that era is blended with modern sensibilities, and while the band claims a Radiohead influence, I hear a softer, less jammy version of My Morning Jacket personally.

The album is a mixed bag with a drop-dead excellent first half and a second half that doesn't come close to matching it. It starts very strong with the superb, totally accessible alt-country of 'Roscoe' featuring a bludgeoning bass line and nice piano fills in around the edges, with moody themes that conjure thoughts of secretive past days. 'Bandits' and the title track show off the mellow and acoustic side, where multiple warm guitars and amazing vocal harmonies fill out these odes to freedom and woodland fantasy, at least that's what the lyrics mean to me, escape. 'Young Bride' is another stellar highlight. An incredible opening of fiddle music is sideswiped by this colorful drum shuffle that just interrupts it for a most unusual song feel, then the track swoons with more gorgeous melody and great storytelling, really impressive. Several tracks are adorned with flute or keyboards to thicken the guitars. But as mentioned, side two cannot maintain the same level of quality. The second half sounds less inspired and more repetitive, with simpler acoustic numbers which have less surprises and less interesting arrangements. It brings the album down a full star without question. Still, 'Van Occupanther' is a homey and heartfelt collection of songs that should appeal to fans of wistful 70s guitar/harmony rock. It's a great album for a ride in the country or sharing a beer with friends.

Again, if you like the album 'After the Gold Rush' I would definitely recommend this one which shares it spirit. 'Van Occupanther' for me recalls songs like 'Tell Me Why,' 'Till the Morning Comes,' and 'I Believe in You.' If you like that side of Neil, buy this one.

Review by kenethlevine
5 stars If the career of a successful band is comprised of a number of breakthroughs in audience acclaim and artistic achievement, then "Trials of Van Occupanther" marks the first breakthrough for this earnest Denton, TX band.

In addition to its transfixing if somewhat opaque story line and uniformity, as opposed to redundancy, of style, "Van Occupanther" represents probably the most convincing album of 1970s influenced art rock recorded by artists too young to remember that decade first hand. The almost non stop emotive melodies pay homage to FLEETWOOD MAC, AMERICA, LOGGINS AND MESSINA, THE EAGLES, and some Brits like DIRE STRAITS, AMAZING BLONDEL (post John Gladwin period) and MAGNA CARTA. No one influence dominates, although the laid back California sound of that period often returns to impart the sensuous shivery awe of a sunny, tranquil west coast day. At the same time, the group has distilled the most enduring aspects of the music of that period, and produced one of the freshest albums of its own decade. I actively dislike most of the EAGLES output, recognize AMERICA's limitations, find MAGNA CARTA a bit boring, enjoy a few LOGGINS and MESSINA songs in small doses, ok I do love FLEETWOOD MAC, but my point is that MIDLAKE concocts an eclectic and more emotionally grounded vision.

On first listens this is just pleasant enough, but it is with every return visit to MIDLAKE's alternate reality that one comes to appreciate the album's ability to transport its audience. Its progressive virtues slowly and shyly reveal themselves in tracks like the stunning "Young Bride", which hints at the band's upcoming subservience to all matters English; "Branches", which shuffles along before tastefully bursting out; "In this Camp" and the plaintive keeper "Bandits". But really, all the material presented here is good or better, ultimately made excellent by the manner in which it is loyally compiled. Yes, even, maybe especially, the FLEETWOOD MAC related indulgences like "Roscoe" and driving beauty "Head Home",

While not matching the immediate impact of the follow up "The Courage of Others", "Trials of Van Occupanther" may ultimately prove more sustaining. Time will tell, but, in the case of "Trials" the verdict is in.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A brilliant album of quite intricate and subtly constructed songs. A songwriting style that seems common to many Midlake songs is used to great success here: that is the process of slowly adding an assortment of instruments to flit and playfully dance around the lead vocal. Quite remarkable and endearing.

1. Fan favorite "Roscoe" (4:49) is not one of my personal favorites. (8/10)

2. "Bandits" (4:04) is a multi-dimensional, multi-part song that really displays a lust for story telling through the music as well as through the lyric. Quite an intricate display of composition and performance. One of the album's best. (9/10)

3. "Head Home" (5:45) contains some of my favorite vocal arrangements that I've heard in a long time--with quite daring and unexpected changes in direction and melody. (9/10)

4. "Van Occupanther" (3:15) is augmented by some stunningly delightful flute and woodwind play thorough out the song--brilliantly offsetting the flat-toned lead vocal. It's as if the vocal is the foundation and everybody else is dancing playfully around him. Amazing! My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

5. "Young Bride" (4:56) is a brilliant song in the vein of RODDY FRAME/AZTEC CAMERA and ARCADE FIRE. Another favorite. (10/10)

6. "Branches" (5:03) slows things down and gets a little bogged down in the syrup of the lyric & lead vocal. Nice piano work and song shifts. (8/10)

7. "In This Camp" (5:44) sees Tim Smith singing in that FLEET FOXES style upper register. Again nice piano support and subtle incidentals before the song crashes into the eminently cathy chorus melody. (9/10)

8. "We Gathered in Spring" (3:33) sees the band singing in some of the tightest, most even harmonies--CROSBY, STILLS & NASH and AMERICA-like. Beautiful. (9/10)

9. "It Covers the Hillsides" (3:14) is upbeat and bouncy in a MAMAS & THE PAPAS/JOHN SEBASTIAN way. (8/10)

10. "Chasing After Deer" (2:42) is another delicately embellished song--subtle instrumental touches gathering around the solid, beautifully sung lead vocal. (8/10)

11. "You Never Arrived" (1:39) (8/10)

An imaginative display of thoughtful, playful, yet beautifully executed song craftsmanship. 4.5 stars rated up for being so refreshing.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars It's great to see Midlake are here on the prog archives. I was very pleased to discover this Texan band upon this album's release. This was their second studio album, and as another reviewer pointed out, there are heavy influences from 1970's American-styled psychedelic folk-rock such as Neil Young ... (read more)

Report this review (#604533) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, January 7, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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