Music: Midlake * * * *
Midlake -- five hirsute friends from Denton, Texas -- made a big impact in 2006 with their second album. The Trials of Van Occupanther is not a title to trip off the tongue easily, but it was a classic word-of-mouth slow-burner packed with songs celebrating nature, rurality and a simpler, innocent time.
The Band circa The Basement Tapes, mid-70s Neil Young and even touches of Fleetwood Mac post Rumours seemed to be touchstones to sit alongside a timeworn Americana.
Since then, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver have released highly regarded debuts that also quietly evoked America's great natural terrain and did so with a nod to the sounds of the past.
Consequently, there is considerable expectation for Midlake to release something special. And for much of this third album, they have indeed succeeded in living up to the very high standards they have always set themselves.
Their ecological penchant is still very much intact and the album really affected me when listening to it while walking through snowy woodland at the beginning of the year. I couldn't have wished for a more apt soundtrack.
Their sound has changed somewhat. This is a much gentler, mellower collection than before, and frontman Tim Smith's assertion that UK folk was a primary influence is borne out from opening track Acts of Man onwards.
Yet, old influences die hard. Radiohead was all over debut album Banman and Silvercork and here Bring Down could be one of the more introspective tracks off OK Computer, with Smith sounding uncannily like Thom Yorke.
Although this is a fine album in its own right, it does suffer when compared to Van Occupanther because it lacks songs with the wow factor of Roscoe and Young Bride.
Burn it: Small Mountain; Children of the Grounds; Bring Down