MIDLAKE – The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)

Like Espers, I came to Midlake on their second album, and what an album this Texan five piece have come up with. Opener and first single ‘Roscoe’ sums up the band perfectly, with its quirky lyrics, slight country tinge and rock guitars all merged together to produce something that is way more than a sum of its parts. ‘Bandits’ proves that it was no one-off, with a slower song that features some understated piano but still has a glorious melody that allows the band to tug at the heartstrings. ‘Head Home’ has a pretty self explanatory lyric, but the music shows that the band have a healthy respect for The Eagles and mid 70’s Fleetwood Mac, with some nice guitar fills weaving in and out of the final chorus. Although I thought that the album title was pretty nonsensical, there is actually a title track, and ‘Van Occupanther’ is the poignant story of a scientist confined as an outcast in his village, once again wrapped in a great tune. ‘Young Bride’ has such a catchy melody that it must be considered as a future single, but the band are best at the heartbreaking melancholy, and ‘Branches’ and ‘We Gathered In Spring’ are two of their best, mixing a sense of unease with their knack for a catchy tune. Midlake are quite unlike any other band around at the moment, with the nearest comparison being the late, lamented Grandaddy, and so if you mourn that great band then Midlake could turn out to be the young pretenders to the crown of kings of alt. country/Americana.