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Album Review
The Courage of Others

The Courage of Others
by Midlake

Bella Union

Review Date
15 February 2010
Reviewed by
Dylan Storey

Midlake return with their much anticipated third album 'The Courage of Others', a solid work of consistently well crafted songs and great depths of sound.

Opening track, 'Acts of Man' sets the tone of the album revealing a voice warm enough to heat your house in winter as lead vocalist Tim Smith drives this relaxed, folk-tale style song through its ambling verses. The chorus brings in one of Midlake's main strengths, the rich multi-part harmonies which play a large part in defining their sound. Other highlights include 'The Horn' with its gritty guitar intro and weaving melody resolving itself in beautiful crescendos and 'Small Mountain' with flute winding in between overdriven guitars and an amazing chorus.

Midlake are a rare example of jazz school gone right. They achieve a complex depth of musical detail without it becoming 'look-how-clever-we-are' waffle. The result is a relentless onslaught of musicality, layers of instrumentation in a complex yet coherent interaction.

The struggle that 'Courage' is facing is that it is follow up the modern masterpiece that is this band's previous album 'The Trials of Van Occupanther'. This is always going to be tricky but 'Courage' gives it a good go. More use of acoustic guitars gives this album a more folky feel. It also has a more austere mood to it, focusing on dark earthly lyrics instead of the candid story telling of 'Trials'. To me, it is lyrically that it is weaker than its predecessor. While it still appears to be a concept album of sorts, it is lacking the memorable or quotable phrases that punctuate 'Trials'.

However the depth of songwriting and arrangement as well as the lush tones make this an enjoyable and important work that will no doubt reveal many more facets of itself with future listening.

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