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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

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Please be big
This is indeed a band of earnest young fellows. They probably need to lighten up a bit. I suppose King Crimson and Radiohead aren't a barrel of laughs either. 'Van' is slightly less ponderous than 'Courage of Others' - of which I am anyway growing increasingly fond - and is quirky and musically adventurous in a good way. Part Byrds and part English (at least as much as...
Published on 3 Aug. 2011 by Doublecross


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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 Sept. 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 An album you can bond with over time....., 21 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Trials Of Van Occupanther (Audio CD)
Midlake's breakthrough album 'The Trials of Van Occupanther' was firstly recommended by a friend and to be honest, initially I thought "No doubt, another dark, dreary 70s guitar rock/folk album that probably has zero feel good factor about it..."

A few listens later of this album in its entirety and I'm eating my words, I take back my first thought. A lo-fi rock masterpiece you can connect with on some level. The songs are based on a fictional character known as 'Van Occupanther' and his stories of love lost, war, and his struggle with life. The lyrics are beautiful and meaningfully written. Musically, this album can be described as sounding somewhat melodic, eery, soothing and tranquil touched by an element of sadness woven in within each track. The sound contained within some tracks could also be best described as Music which you can enjoy being miserable to.

Standout tracks include; 'Roscoe' the opener track, albeit it's all too easy to directly compare this track with the guitar sounds of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rhiannon' (yawn...), nothing original here. However, tracks such as 'Van Occupanther', 'Young Bride' and 'In this Camp' really made me sit up and take notice of this band.

'Van Occupanther' is tinged with sadness and tells the story of a man who is forging on alone, with lost hope and feels he has nothing left to offer. The vocals are emotionally moving and indicate Van Occupanther's urge to run away from the pain he is suffering; "Let me not get down if I'm walking with no-one", and "Sometimes I want to go home and stay out of sign for a long time".

'Young Bride' kicks off with haunting violin strings, that picks up a rock vibe as the song progresses. This is one song you will find yourself singing along to in your head at the strangest of times. The lyrics seem to sellotape themselves to your mind.

'In this camp' is the ultimate standout track. It builds and builds. Love it, especially the guitar instrumental. The song portrays the themes of love and war, and tells the tale of his unrequited love for Babette.

A weaker track is 'We gathered In Spring'. It could be seen as being beautiful on the one hand, yet both the chorus vocals and lyrics come across as being bland, repetitive and a slight source of irritation.

However, the album's other tracks clearly overshadow this poorer track so please do not be put off by this comment. This is an album that should be listened to with your headphones on, in a quiet retreat, to be left alone with your thoughts. Certainly, it is worth listening to in its entirety over and over again, in order to fully immerse yourself with the sound of the talented Midlake.

My burning question however is; why on earth has 'I-tunes' opted to put 'Midlake' in the 'Pop' genre category?? The mind boggles...Best not search for it there.
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