Still the Same Midlake
Midlake has been a band since before the new millennium. While the original members were a group of Texan jazz students, Midlake is part indie rock, part folk rock and also a little dreamy and sophisticated. Antiphon marks the fourth full-length album from the band, as they’ve been known to scratch years’ worth of recordings to start and re-start albums. And this is the band’s first full-length without singer/songwriter Tim Smith, who tended to be the brains behind the operation. It’s also their first release on Dave Matthews’ label ATO Records (My Morning Jacket, Stars), so there are some significant behind-the-scenes changes this time around.
It’s hard to say if much has changed following Smith’s departure and the band’s throwing away of all previous recordings with him. While the tracks aren’t necessarily slow-paced, they seem to carry a dark vibe. That could be due to longtime guitarist Eric Pulido stepping in as the new frontman and lead singer (whereas he sang harmony before). His voice, consistent and melodramatic, serves as a fitting replacement.
The band’s interesting instrumentals still exist: new member Jesse Chandler steps in to play keyboard and piano, and you can also hear him on flute, most notably in “Vale,” a song sans vocals. You can hear more highlights of his work in “Provider,” a slow, dreamy track. And “It’s Going Down” is a song worth noting, which is reminiscent of something Minus The Bear would cook up instrumentally. Lyrically, we hear a lot about separation and space (literally on “Corruption”: “We went to the moon with a tycoon”), but it’s the instruments that keep the album’s flow going.
“Provider Reprise” closes the album quietly. More of Chandler’s flute-work is heard along with McKenzie Smith’s well produced drumming. It’s the nicely-tied ribbon on their well-wrapped package.
Antiphon is not the album you’d throw on to get the party started. It’s not a feel-good album, though some of the songs provide some warm and fuzzy moments. But cheers to Midlake for making this album work after losing so much of what many considered to be the heart of the band.