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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born in 1891...?
Midlake's second studio album (after nearly a year and a half of recording and re-recording) is a lush, heavily melodic record, laden with multi-part harmonies and evocative lyrical imagery set in woodlands, boats and log cabins; telling oblique but moving tales of pioneering, travel and isolation. With flutes, accoustics and inspiring use of analog synthesizers, this...
Published on 25 Mar 2007 by C. Cook

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An ok start.
Typical first album. Some great ideas and a few fully-formed songs. NOT as good as The Courage of Others but certainly worth a go.
Published 10 months ago by Flakey Blakey


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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born in 1891...?, 25 Mar 2007
By 
C. Cook "Monkey-man" (Where in the world am I? HEAVEN!) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
Midlake's second studio album (after nearly a year and a half of recording and re-recording) is a lush, heavily melodic record, laden with multi-part harmonies and evocative lyrical imagery set in woodlands, boats and log cabins; telling oblique but moving tales of pioneering, travel and isolation. With flutes, accoustics and inspiring use of analog synthesizers, this album has been compared, quite rightly to vintage 1970's folk-pop and rock such as Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell.

For me, despite the American tales, Midlake sound as though someone has given a pair of guitars, synths and a drumkit to a Victorian orchestra and said "Here you go, make a band".

The wonderful use of imagery, really takes the listener away, particularly on the opening three tracks. 'Bandits' has a beautiful message to deliver with it's enlightning questions, and the album opener, 'Roscoe' is a melliflous euphony of archaic sounds. Particular praise must go for the wonderfully mysterious 'Young Bride', the transporting and harmonious 'In This Camp' and 'Branches', and the iconic 'It Covers The Hillside'.

I bought this album on the back of briefly hearing one track on the Radio, and instantly realised I had to own it. I was not disapointed and for weeks, the CD never made it back from the player to the case...

Even if you've never heard anything by Midlake, or have only discovered this album now by accident, I strongly suggest you buy it. This, an unheard album of last year, is a wondorous acheivement and a melodic massage to anyones weary ears...
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - Midlake gets it spot in with their second outing..., 19 Jun 2006
By 
Mr. M. R. Gunn "gattmunn" (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
This album is great. As another reviewer points out, there are hints of other bands and artists, such as Radiohead and harmonic vocals that could be likened to Simon & Garfunkel, but the sound is entirely their own.

The album opens with Roscoe, which unleashes all of the talent that Midlake has to offer through great lyrics and harmonies backed with fab guitar's n drums - this could well be a single.

They then bring in a range of other instruments and sounds throughout the album, such as the piano in In This Camp, the viola in Young Bride and a glistening 80's-sounding synthesiser in We Gathered In Spring. All this whilst retaining the great harmonies, which sound like the vocal equivalent of a 12-string acoustic guitar.

They have also gone to the trouble of finishing most of the songs, rather than the uninspired fade out that most bands plump for.

This, so far, is my album of 2006 (Vetiver coming a close second). A fantasically lucid and well-constructed album, which is more of a story than a string of unrelated songs. Oh - and don't be put off by the bizarre cover!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lake Fantastic, 2 Jun 2006
By 
J. W. Bassett (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
With Grandaddy no more, The Flaming Lips pushing farther and farther into space and Mercury Rev seemingly on a self-imposed hiatus, a gap has opened for a quirksome, melodic, psychedelic American band. Enter Denton, Texas, five-piece, Midlake.

The Trials Of Van Occupanther is Midlake's second album and while their debut, Bamnam & Silvercork, was, at times, primitive, the new album is a fully-realised beast. Roscoe, driven by keyboards and both charming and infectious, is a perfect opening statement from a band who sound much more confident two years on from their full-length debut.

Like Grandaddy - to whom the band are most often compared - Midlake's chief concern, at least on their new album, appears to be a desire to retreat from modern day materialism to a more simple life of honest toil and nature. In the case of the album's fictional titular hero, this means invisibly transporting pales of water.

But while there's a degree of fantasy in the album's midst, singer Tim Smith's lyrics prove that The Trials Of Van Occupanther is grounded in reality. The gothic crawl of Branches gives us the biggest insight into Midlake's world as Smith sings, "we won't get married, because she won't have me", before closing the song with the heartbreaking refrain: "it's hard for me, but I'm trying".

Smith's bandmates have also clearly become more adventurous since Bamnam & Silvercork. Home sees the band adding fuzzy guitar solos to their repertoire, while In This Camp too proves that the band are equally adept at cultivating soon-to-be indie anthems. Elsewhere, Young Bride cascades along on a wave of carefully laid-down percussion and tempered strings, Gathered In Spring's conclusion is deliciously swamped in Eric Nichelson's keyboards and Chasing After Deer is just a lone guitar and Smith's trembling vocals.

Repeated listening of The Trials of Van Occupanther's charming and infectious songs might unveil hints of Neil Young, Mercury Rev, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens, yet there's no mistaking Midlake's brilliance for anyone else's.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midlake kick on....., 13 Sep 2006
By 
A. Reddish "ajreddish" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
....with a brilliant follow-up to Bamnan and Slivercork (which was excellent too). Soft, mellow but with a beautiful way of working with lyrics to project clear imagery on the listener.

I've had this album since release, but I felt compelled to write this because at first listen it would be easy to let this pass through your headspace. However, after a few listens, it dawns on you why people talk so highly of this group of guys from the US.

I don't like to go through each track and pick the merits out, but particular praise to Branches which is simply sublime and in my eyes is a stand-out track on this album. Midlake have really raised the bar with this release and it will be interesting to see which way the band will go from this point.

Hopefully, they'll continue putting out great albums like this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding second album, 15 Jun 2006
By 
Mr. Piers Bravery "PSB" (Surrey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
I have yet to hear Midlakes's first album but having listened to this I am definitely ordering it today. I put this straight onto my MP3 and was so astounded by the vast range of sounds, vocals and excellent use of instruments that I listened to it 3 times non stop. The last album to affect me in this way was Eels "Blinking Lights" (another essential purchse I stress). Van Occupanther seems to follow a drifting storyline of adventures, wasted opportunities and the day to day happenings of deep-in-the-woods-dwelling. It's a blinder and you'll love it, but play it on a good system to really appreciate the range of music and vocals.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy listening, but in an indie sort of way, 9 April 2007
This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
These young indie boys are a real revelation. Don't be put off by hints of Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills and Nash and other 70s artists, even if you feel American music in the 70s was a bit wet. Warm, gentle melodies and harmonies gradually work your way into your affections until you realise that you're hooked and wondering when they're next album is out.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Without doubt one of the best albums of the year!, 15 Dec 2006
By 
Mike J. Wheeler (Kingswinford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
I've come to this album a few months after it was released after reading critical praise for it. In a year of fantastic releases (Orphans, Ys, Return to Cookie Mountain, The Eraser) this is without doubt one of the best albums of the year!

Its hard to place where Midlake take all their influences from. People mention Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and 70s soft rock. I have to say I'm not a great fan of soft rock and to be truthful this is better than any soft rock that I remember. It strays much more into the indie/psychedelic side than soft rock ever did. I do see where people say that Midlake seem to have stepped right out of the 70s though but that's not to denigrate what they do. I've also heard comparisons to the (overrated) Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Thankfully I don't hear that, this is much better than either of those. I can see comparisons to Radiohead are valid (particularly 'Branches', 'In This Camp').

The songs are really melodic. Beautiful singing, superb instrumentation and good lyrics. You can really close your eyes and get lost in this. definitely one of the better albums of the year.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you 6Music, 24 April 2007
By 
G. Boggia (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
Thank you 6Music for playing an un-remembered Midlake track on a wet Saturday afternoon and then describing it at 'jauntily sombre' - I had to buy into Midlake and I is now hooked. They're refreshing, different, and accomplished. To describe their sound I'd add Bread to the list of variants mentioned by other reviewers, but although one described it as indie/folk, don't let the folk part of that turn you off. Four stars because they're full of promise. I only hope I don't tire of listening.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Class, 1 April 2007
By 
Musicman "waggstar" (Truro, Cornwall, U.K.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
Stop with the comparisons already. If I have to read the words 'Fleetwood 'mac' in one more review of this album...

Making immediate comparisons based on hearing only track one of an album is unforgivably lazy. This great piece of work should be judged on it's own merit, not against albums made decades ago. Midlake sound like Midlake, and they sound great, so let's leave it at that. It's a beautiful record, and although it sounds simple it has been put together with great care and intricacy. The track 'Bandits' for instance contains many subtle time changes and delicately overlapping harmonies which have all been designed for the listener NOT to pick up on, but to help the song sweep it's way into your subconscious brilliantly.

The whole album does this well, and as previous reviewers have mentioned; once it's in your player it's very difficult to come up with anything good enough to displace it. You'll find yourself wanting to listen to it constantly.

It's a fine album, and it shoud be your new best friend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best album ever, 2 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
I recently got into the Fleet Foxes and read on here that Midlake influenced them. I then saw that Van Occupanther was viewed as Midlake's best offering and I got hold of that. I am now firmly of the view that Van Occupanther is the best album ever!

Lots of Midlake fans seem to love track 1, Roscoe. I think its ok but find myself compelled to press the button that takes me to Bandits. Bandits is an amazing track. The build up to the lyrics is mesmerisingly good, the percussion cuts in beautifully and the lyrics are just beautiful:

"So they came down from the north, carrying all they owned, with a basket full of food and clothes. They were stopped by a weekend raid, travelling the woods one day. They tried to put up a fight, but lost"

I don't care what he's talking about, it just sounds fantastic! And then the finale "When the winter comes and the greenery goes we will make some shelter". You have to be seriously talented to get away with a lyric like that, and these guys have talent in droves.

And so we get to "Head Home". An amazing upbeat track reminscent of the Eagles and their like but transcending anything in that camp. The guitar work is superb and the harmonies are perfect. Fantastic lyrics too: "Bring me the news all about the town, how it struggles to help all the farmers out during harvest time". A great foot-tapper which gives a real kick to this album.

My Young Bride blends spanish guitar and dour violin until the vocals get things moving and again we have haunting melodies and lovely earthy
lyrics.

Then we get to the track which rivals Bandits as my favourite: Branches. If songs were mountains, this one would be Everest. Although I am reminded of 'All Come to Meet Her' by Skip Spence, this track is beautifully unique. Personally, I have never heard anything quite like it. Let's face it ordinarily if you heard: "I saw she was living under some branches, I saw she was happy in her circumstances" in a song, you would be put off, right? But here it is absolutely beautiful and I will love it forever.

In This Camp is nice and then we move to "We Gathered In The Spring". I suspect Ian Matthews / Fairport influenced this one and its all the better for it. It's a lovely song.

It Covers The Hillsides gets feet tapping again and its a great track with beautiful lyrics that particularly resound for a hillwalker like myself : "i'm not sure where this river goes, but we have no choice but to follow, there is smoke in the sky over those trees, let us hope they are kind to you and me..." I LOVE THESE GUYS!!

Next is Chasing After Deer. If I didn't otherwise love these people, I would query the rhyming of "Dear" with "Deer" but I do love them so they get away with it! And again it's a lovely song.

You Never Arrived is short but gives the whole thing a relatively upbeat finale which is great.

To summarise, I think with the influence of Moby Grape and the Flying Burrito Brothers / Gram Parsons and perhaps the Eagles, what we have here is my favourite album of all time.
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