Midlake: For the Sake of Bethel Woods (ATO/Bella Union) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 6th, 2022  

Midlake

For the Sake of Bethel Woods

ATO/Bella Union

May 23, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Midlake is a band with an interesting arc, and an idiosyncratic outside the box configuration. Formed in Denton, TX in 1999, they attracted a lot of buzz early on, especially among critics and other musicians, and even became a favorite of the legendary Paul Weller, and with that endorsement it stands to reason they must know their way around a song. After two genre-defying albums—2004’s Bamnan and Slivercork and 2006’s beloved The Trials of Van Occupanther—primary songwriter and some would say the heart and soul of the band, Tim Smith, quit, and, essentially, disappeared, releasing no new music on his own for years.

After Smith’s departure guitarist Eric Pulido took over as frontman and they have carried on sans Mr. Smith. And while some decry the continued absence of Smith, it must be noted that Mr. Pulido is a formidable replacement and Midlake are still some smooth operators and a hard to classify band, one of the most misunderstood bands in the U.S. They aren’t exactly Americana, a lazy way to describe them, and perhaps it does a disservice to label them at all, because they embody reinvention. Their intellectually primed offerings may seem high-brow and off-putting, but the entry point is unassumingly low-level via the alluring melodies. Their friendly, talky intellectualism is still one of their charms.

While the lyrical themes involve a complexity of things on For the Sake of Bethel Woods, their first album since 2013’s Antiphon, such as alienation and isolation, listen closely and the songs become instantly accessible and compelling. The literary, layered almost title track “Bethel Woods” grabs a hold and you’re riding with the band before you know it. “Exile” takes flight as an across the pond art-rock bird and carries you away on a soaring vocal. By the time they get to “Meanwhile” they are showing off their considerable skills as intriguing musical storytellers. It is often the case that art that doesn’t easily fit into a box is hard to frame and market. That is why we must seek it out and share it ourselves. That is part of our relationship with art and part of our responsibility as humans. This is a band that is worthy of the search. (www.midlakeband.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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