Midlake returns with career album 'The Courage of Others' after 4-year absence

It took a few attempts before Midlake hit on a compelling direction for the follow-up to the band’s acclaimed 2006 album, “The Trials of Van Occupanther.”

Four years later, the Denton, Texas, group returns with “The Courage of Others” (Bella Union). It was worth the wait. Actually, that’s something of an understatement.

The band’s third album is a stunning collection of 11 songs inspired by the sound of British electric-folk bands from the late ’60s and ’70s, but “The Courage of Others” is no throwback record: in fact, Midlake has rendered these songs in a way that’s timeless, and wholly riveting.

Leader Tim Smith sings in a melodious, understated voice over intricate musical arrangements — enough so that the musicians had to teach themselves to play in the prog-folk style of the album. A wash of acoustic and electric guitars, drums and wind instruments sweeps through opener “Acts of Man,” and there’s a taut tension in the overdriven electric guitar winding through “Core of Nature.”

Acoustic guitars intertwine on the lovely, subdued “Fortune,” and underpin the forceful blend of electric guitar and wind instruments that sweep through “Rulers, Ruling All Things.”

It’s a subtle, powerful and intently musical way to build on a record that could have been a career-defining release. Ultimately, all that craft and care resulted in a record that’s even stronger, demonstrating that true quality is worth the time it takes.

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Bill Zelman

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