Midlake
For the Sake Of Bethel Woods


3.3
great

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
March 23rd, 2022 | 20 replies


Release Date: 03/22/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Out of time...

It’s a bit odd seeing a new Midlake album in 2022. The band never quite managed to move past second-tier act status, but for all that they were an integral part of the 2000s indie scene, the type of group that you’d expect to see populating a certain type of person’s iTunes alongside the likes of Arcade Fire and The Decemberists (those were the days…). Now, a decade plus later, most of those groups don’t occupy nearly the same bandwidth in the music world. Midlake themselves haven’t released anything since 2013, with even that album being an unusual item, recorded and released minus the band’s long-time frontman Tim Smith (For The Sake Of Bethel Woods again sees Eric Pulido as the lead vocalist).

This “out of time” feeling referenced in this review’s summary is exacerbated by the fact that Midlake has always been, for the most part intentionally, a group which evokes a feeling of archaic times. We’re not just talking about the 70s-folk rock homages, but also the 19th-century lyrical allusions, and the general sense of brooding solemnity which provides a timeless bent to the group’s songs. In that sense, it’s hard to think of a better Midlake album title than For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, with its old-timey vibe, stuck right between rustic and Gothic.

The band is up to many of their old tricks on their fifth full-length, with hushed folk, mellow guitar solos, and somber, moody lyrics taking center stage. These traditional stylings are married with overt moves toward staunch psychedelic and vaguely experimental influences, with the musical backdrop of second track “Bethel Woods” leaning towards a dancy trippiness, while a bit of Radiohead influence can be detected in its follow-up, “Glistening”. Lyrically, this is a strong album, with a lot of poetic phrasing which rests in the sweet spot between touching and sinister, but musically too many stretches here fall a little flat compared to the band in peak form. For a record under forty-five minutes in length, this is a rather painfully long listen, which illustrates the somewhat dull nature of some of the tracks. That said, there are absolutely some wonderful moments as well. Perhaps surprisingly, the under-a-minute intro “Commune” is one of them, an inviting helping of rural folk. “Feast Of Carrion” also stands out as one of the finest tracks in the band’s career.

Even if I’m not afraid to share some gripes about this album, it’s good to have Midlake back, and not just as a nostalgia act. This is a respectable effort, with glimmers of excellence in many places. Indeed, this could well be an entrancing listen for the right fan, but sadly, for me, neither the atmosphere or the instrumentation is enough to prevent my mind from frequently wandering away while listening.



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user ratings (15)
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 23rd 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Had a strange time writing this review, I think it's because I "want to like" this album more than I actually like it. I think the review might read a bit harsh compared to the score, but I feel like a 3.3 is about right.

Gyromania
March 23rd 2022


34821 Comments


the trials of van occupanther is one of my favourite albums, it's such a shame to see the rest of their discog fall so short of it

Sowing
Moderator
March 24th 2022


41806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So glad this got a write up. My first impression was that this is incredible, but the appreciation is already starting to quickly wane. I still think it's solidly in the 3.5-4 range however, with Gone and Meanwhile serving as my favorite tracks (and one hell of a 1-2 punch). Sweet review, too.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Thanks Sowing! Yeah, I saw you were digging this one. I can't really get into Gone, Meanwhile is a tasty tune though.

Purpl3Spartan
March 24th 2022


4486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice write up sunny

Sowing
Moderator
March 24th 2022


41806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Meanwhile is indeed pure indie-pop sweetness, but you're missing out with Gone. Feels like Pink Floyd stumbled into 2010 and accidentally made a song with Arcade Fire.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Thanks @Purpl3Spartan!



@Sowing, will have to give it more attention, we shall see...

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2022


17439 Comments


Really keeping a good pace Sunny

Sowing
Moderator
March 24th 2022


41806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm just glad that someone is picking up my slack by reviewing all the good indie shit. ;-)

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Can't say I'm on the Sowing level, but doing my best!

Sowing
Moderator
March 25th 2022


41806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You still have a ways down before you sink to my level, so don't rush!

Pikazilla
March 25th 2022


23617 Comments


Sunny, should I check this band's album with the highest average?

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Pika, yeah, The Trials Of Van Occupanther is generally considered a classic, worth checking. I don't rate it quite that highly, but the band's first three are definitely very solid.

WatchItExplode
March 25th 2022


9781 Comments


Nice to see this reviewed and of course it is sunny :-) unfortunately nothing here really lives up to the title track, although there is a handful of very enjoyable moments throughout.

Pikazilla
March 25th 2022


23617 Comments


@sunny

Okay!

DungeonBoy
March 25th 2022


9034 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review Sunny! Not sure how I feel about this album, but first impression is I'm enjoying it. It's very same sounding throughout, kinda meanders, but then there's moments I'm really impressed by. Lots of really cool stuff layered in each song which makes me want to come back for multiple listens, and it does have some really good hooks throughout. Haven't listened to these guys since The Courage of Others came out so it's interesting to hear where they went from there. Definitely exploring the more 70's prog rock vibe on this one

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2022


4075 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Thanks DungeonBoy! Basically agree with your comments, just seems like you're digging this a tad more than me, which is great!

DungeonBoy
March 25th 2022


9034 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like it a lot more in the first half because it felt refreshing, and I absolutely love the production, but by the end I was a bit tired of it.

Sowing
Moderator
March 25th 2022


41806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

For me, the title track had me amped but then it sort of leveled off before surging again across the back half (which is where I think the best moments are).

elvis7
March 25th 2022


3 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

For the shake is the best thing I've heard this year so far. I've be waiting for such an album since trials and I'm glad they made it



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