Midlake came out the early 2000s indie rock scene and had a vibe all their own. They had a dark folksy sound that veered somewhere between Fairport Convention, Fleetwood Mac, and touches of Black Sabbath thrown in for good measure. The Denton, TX six-piece wrote songs that felt both medievel and futuristic. Sci-fi elements mixed with turn-of-the-century folksy tales. 2006s The Trials of Van Occupanther remains one of the standout records of the 2000s(trust me, I’m an expert.)
Singer and songwriter Tim Smith was the gentle voice that led the band through three incredible records, each a little different from what came before. But after 2009s The Courage Of Others Smith found himself locked up musically while the rest of the band was ready to keep moving forward. Smith left and guitarist Eric Pulido took main vocal duties. Antiphon was released in 2013 and showed that Midlake was more than just the soft voice of Tim Smith.
Nine years later Midlake have returned with the amazing For The Sake Of Bethel Woods. If some were hesitant to step back into Midlake’s world because of Smith’s absence you needn’t worry. Pulido and company have made a stunning record, rich in melody and mystery.
“Bethel Woods” brings us back into that stunning sonic world Midlake have been building since their debut full-length Bamnan and Slivercork. Driving drums, tasteful piano, and urgent vocals; this is an incredible opening track, technically precise and emotionally invested. “Glistening” is built around what sounds like a simple guitar loop and Pulidos’s subtle vocal, but builds to a stunning crescendo.
Elsewhere “Noble” opens in ethereal noise while Pulido sounds a lot like Sufjan Stevens as the song builds. This Midlake sounds more grounded; building songs in a world we can relate to, as opposed to the eccentric worlds built in the 2000s. “Meanwhile…” does reach back to those early days, bringing to mind Bamnan’s “King Fish Pies”, but through the scope of The Moody Blues.
For The Sake Of Bethel Woods sees Midlake continuing their artistic growth and evolution from their humble beginnings in Denton, TX. An album of musical sophistication and emotional heft.