Midlake’s new nineteenth century

by November 23, 2010


Guest post by Luke Grundy

In 1999, a group of jazz students at North Texas University played Led Zeppelin and funk jams under the alias “The Cornbred All-Stars”. Now, eleven years after these first musical forays, Midlake, as they have become, are a folk act with a distinctive sound and an increasingly passionate following.

Singing about life in a simpler era, the group’s lead singer & songwriter Tim Smith recounts tales of log cabins, hunts, and the daily grind of nineteenth-century America. In an era where most bands strive to be cutting-edge contemporary, it’s refreshing (and somewhat reassuring) to think that some people yearn for years ago. Preferring firewood to air-con and natural splendour to manufactured beauty, Midlake’s lyrics are reminiscent of the 1970s UK folk scene; echoes of Nick Drake hum throughout the band’s back catalogue.

Midlake’s newest EP, entitled Fortune, is not too much of a musical departure; those familiar with the Texans’ previous output, including three excellent full-length albums, will instantly recognize Smith’s tremulous vocals, but the US-only EP eschews the heavier sounds of some of their earlier tunes. Fortune is formed of alternative versions of six tracks, beginning with the titular ‘Fortune’. Stripping each song back to its core, the band is able to fill the record with harmonious melodies, often through multiple vocal parts, and McKenzie Smith’s drum lines gel with, rather than collide against, the softer timbre the band has created.

It’s strange to encounter such a singular group in today’s musical environment, and while Fortune may not offer radically new Midlake material, it gives an insight into the heart of songs which are light years from the zeitgeist, and all the better for it.

From the EP, ‘Fortune’:

‘Head Home’ from Midlake’s second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther:

The Fortune EP is available from Amazon.com here.

Luke Grundy is a fervent epistemologist based in London, England. He is an enthusiastic consumer of all things visual and audial, and his blog Odessa & Tucson covers the twin worlds of music and film. An aspiring author, musician and journalist, he splits his time between absorbing and creating music, video and literature.