Midlake
Antiphon


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Kugaczewski USER (9 Reviews)
October 31st, 2013 | 36 replies


Release Date: 11/05/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: No Smith? No problem!

You’d be forgiven for assuming that Midlake was dead and gone following Tim Smith’s abrupt departure in 2012, which left the band in the precarious position of existing without its voice. Smith, who had assumed lead vocal duties and the majority of songwriting credits since the group’s inception, was unquestionably the heart and soul of the band. So, where to go? For Midlake, it seems to have never been a question. In a move equally brazen and bizarre, the band chose not to bring in a third-party replacement, and instead opted to continue in its current state, writing and recording new material from the smoldering ruins of ground zero. As an album title, then, Antiphon couldn’t have been a smarter choice for the band, whose response to the deathcall of Smith’s absence is nothing short of revelatory. Daring and affecting in equal measure, Antiphon finds Midlake rising from the ashes of adversity while shedding the dreary Brit-folk and Fleetwood-inspired stylings that previously defined it. Welcome, evolution.

Refusing to recycle the aesthetics Smith brought to the forefront is one of Antiphon’s most intelligent moves, avoiding a retread that couldn’t possibly feel authentic without the aid of its originator. Instead, the album exists in a plane far removed from previous releases. Simultaneously psychedelic and pastoral, Antiphon works to ease the listener into a relaxed sonic kaleidoscope of cascading leaves and shifting branches, exemplified by “The Old and the Young,” whose melodic, soothing chorus relates growth through the passage of time. If that sounds acutely self-aware, it is. But more than that, it serves as a tagline for the entire record.

Penultimate track “Corruption,” for instance, builds a meditative wave of floating vocals and soothing acoustics before breaking into an extended piano outro replete with flowing vocal harmonies. It’s strange to imagine that this was once the band that penned the occasionally monotonous The Courage of Others only three years ago, but ultimately it’s easy to accept the trade for a freer, more adventurous group of musicians who for the first time feel like they’re channeling the vision of a collective rather than an individual.

As revealed earlier, yes, there are vocals, and those duties are handled extraordinarily well by long-standing member Eric Pulido, whose voice is perfectly suited to the variegated landscape, sounding both homely and removed. His performance on album highlight “Aurora Gone” lends an air of tragic vulnerability to the song, creating a captivating marriage between the emotional resonance of folk and the otherworldly atmosphere of psych. It’s one thing for an album to conjure scenes of weary friends gathered ‘round the fire, but it’s another entirely to take those feelings of comfort and comradery and flawlessly filter them through a multicolored, autumnal haze without dampening the emotional impact of the music.

Undoubtedly, fans will fiercely debate the band's decision to continue using its name following the departure of its former frontman. Beneath the useless noise, however, Antiphon is more than just one of the year’s finest indie triumphs; it’s a personal victory for a band that just a year ago may not have existed. Midlake is alive and well, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back.



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user ratings (28)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Underflow
October 30th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Album is streaming here: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/27/240566876/first-listen-midlake-antiphon

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Ponton
Emeritus
October 30th 2013


5804 Comments


hey great review

WashboardSuds
October 30th 2013


5025 Comments


digging that artwork

Underflow
October 30th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

@Ponton: Thanks! That means a lot coming from you.

@WashboardSuds: Ha, yeah, it's cool album cover

nbaronz
October 31st 2013


14 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Beat me to it! Nice work. The production on this album is exceptional. A little homogenous and impersonal, but the overall sound is tight; more consistent than Occupanther and a step up from The Courage of Others. This band needs more exposure.

Underflow
October 31st 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, the album sounds great. Very good production work.

WatchItExplode
October 31st 2013


3273 Comments


I loved the sorrowful nature of The Courage of Others, but really don't know what to think about this after reading your review...

Digging: Giant Squid - Minoans

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 31st 2013


10499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

damn i didn't know smith left. gotta pick this up. van occupanther is one of my '00 faves

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Underflow
October 31st 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

@Watch: Hopefully it's not because of poor communication on my part! Anyway, you can certainly find
out by clicking the link in the first post. The album is streaming there.

@klap: You definitely should. This is, in my opinion, their most consistent release yet.

Gyromania
November 2nd 2013


15941 Comments


why the hell am i just now hearing the trials of van occupanther. amazing stuff - i can already tell roscoe is going to be one of those songs i play and play until i can't stand to listen to it anymore.

great review btw. i'll make sure to get around to this album before the end of the year

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

Tyrael
November 2nd 2013


20901 Comments


Midlake is still Midlake, half of the album is beautiful while the other half just meanders

Underflow
November 2nd 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks for the feature, mods!

@Tyrael: I've had that issue to varying degrees with their previous albums (Almost all of Trials is
excellent and Bamnan is mostly compelling). This is the first record where I feel the whole unit is
consistent throughout.

Yotimi
November 2nd 2013


6523 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Trials of Van Occupanther is one of the most underrated albums of last decade, will check this

DoubtGin
November 2nd 2013


6752 Comments


WTF SMITH LEFT?

Gyromania
November 2nd 2013


15941 Comments


Ya trials is phenomenal

slidenslip
November 2nd 2013


1016 Comments


entry level

Underflow
November 2nd 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

We're all entry level on the inside.

Gyromania
November 2nd 2013


15941 Comments


entry level pft

this is really good

RadicalEd
November 3rd 2013


2702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty good so far. A bit samey...

Digging: Jakob - Sines

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2013


28655 Comments


is this shit any good

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love



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