[sic] Magazine

Midlake – Antiphon

The recent news that Tim Smith , the architect of much of Midlake ‘s music, had departed the band will have sounded alarm bells and could have been seen as fatal for this bunch of intrepid musicians from Denton, Texas. As the driving force behind the classic-rock revivalism of the stunning Trials of Van Occupanther and the marginally less successful folk-rock of 2010’s Courage of Others , Smith’s finicky musical perfectionism has dominated this band. Yet, following that album, this same trait pulled the band apart. Despite nearly two years spent together trying to record a new album entitled Seven Long Suns Smith has subsequently admitted that only one song emerged from these sessions. He has since honestly reflected on his position within the band that “I knew I was holding them back and I knew some of them felt the same way.”

So, what about the remaining members? Have they managed to plug the gap on this new album Antiphon ? It is a pleasure to report that the answer is affirmative. It is an album more tuned into the vibes of ‘Van Occupanther’ and the songs written over a six month period are very strong. Eric Pulido , who’s also the band’s guitarist, is the new frontman and is well supported by his fellow members. On first listens this is a more upbeat band than some of the dour fare that so dogged the latter part of Courage . The title track, ‘Antiphon’, is a big melodic rock number that grows enormously in stature on repeated listens. The song ‘The Old and the Young’ will lead some to reflect why the song writing skills of other band members had not been drawn upon to a greater degree. It is a joyous, aural assault full of pounding bass and a very strong vocal by Pulido. The haunting song ‘Provider’ is a musical au revoir to Smith and is as good as anything the band has previously committed to vinyl. It sees them stretching out into wider sonic swirls and psychedelic guitar licks.

There are couple of songs that don’t immediately appeal, not least ‘Ages’ which does not initially fire at any level, but is stronger on subsequent plays. Similarly the instrumental ‘Vale’ does take some time to get off the ground and is not particularly interesting when it does. Yet, the lovely ‘Aurora Gone’ makes up for any deficiency in its slow, simmering acoustic beauty. One of the standout tracks, ‘It’s Going Down’, also builds on the past and is a lovely tapestry of sound. Overall, the departure of their widely acknowledged creative leader has been cleverly navigated by Midlake and they hold on to this valuable brand name with real pride and genuine authenticity. Antiphon is no ‘stop gap’ or intermission. It takes the band’s music forward and deserves the success which will undoubtedly follow.