The Courage of Others (Bella Union)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Feb. 12, 2010
MidlakeThe Courage of Others (Bella Union)
Like Thoreau at Walden Pond, Midlake's 2006 breakthrough, The Trials of Van Occupanther, retreated into a romanticized past, weaving a timeless folk narrative of saints and stonecutters. With long-awaited third LP The Courage of Others, the Denton quintet delves deeper into winter contemplation and 1960s British folk, except that wistful longing for a simpler time has been replaced with a mournful tinge of regret for its passing. More than two years in the making, Courage is deceptively dense, evinced by the subtle build of opener "Acts of Man" and the heavy psych guitar that carves through "Winter Dies" like a handsaw. The interplay between guitarists Eric Pulido and Eric Nichelson takes on Pentangle proportions, while the melancholic "Bring Down" hints at the Radiohead grandeur of the band's 2004 debut, Bamnan and Slivercork, albeit with flutes instead of synthesizers. Despite its meticulous craftsmanship and ornamentation, Tim Smith's stoic delivery throughout – detached and downtrodden – ultimately turns The Courage of Others into a sepia-toned slumber.