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Midlake The Trials of Van Occupanther album cover
4.07 | 31 ratings | 4 reviews | 32% 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


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Paul Alexander / bass, double bass, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, bassoon
- McKenzie Smith / drums, percussion
- Linda Salisbury / French horn
- Eric Pulido / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Eric Nichelson / keyboards, piano, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, electric guitar
- Josh Ello / violin
- Tim Smith / vocals, piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, flute

Releases information

CD Bella Union BELLACD117 (2006) UK
2xCD Etch N Sketch CDENS0006 (2006) Australia
CD V2 Records V2CP 309 (2006) Japan
CD Bella Union BEU 412 (2006) US
CD Bella Union BELLACD117X (2006) EU
CD Bella Union/World's Fair M 389330 (2006) UK
LP Bella Union BELLAV117 (2006) EU
LP Nova Posta NPV003 (2010) US
LP Bella Union BELLAV117 (2010) UK

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
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Buy MIDLAKE The Trials of Van Occupanther Music

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MIDLAKE The Trials of Van Occupanther ratings distribution

(31 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

MIDLAKE The Trials of Van Occupanther reviews

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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 Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 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.

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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