Examining past experiences as they come along, a band like Midlake is certainly capable of achieving successful feats. Their first album found a small base of fans and while The Trials of Van Occupanther charmed everyone from critics and fans alike, the beauty of that album was its continuous rewarding. Somewhere between the Fleetwood Mac vibe, the flowered flutes and Tim Smith’s mellow, affecting voice was a subtle demeanor: it wasn’t the album you immediately loved, well, immediately.
Enter The Courage of Others, an album that still remains entirely bestowed to earnest, musically-charged musicians. Keep in mind, Midlake were music majors at North Texas, where one of the best music programs in the country dwells. They aren’t your normal indie rock and although they’re far from their jazz roots, the melodies, harmonies and chords live on. If there’s anything wrong with being consistently great without being flashy or even, immediately reliable without ever being immediately affecting, then I guess you’d want to inform Midlake of that.
There’s a moment on “Winter Dies,” right before the fuzzed-out guitar strangles it, where Smith sings his lost chorus and underneath it, is a sparkling guitar differentiating in an entirely different style and mode. They’d always loved Radiohead and they never denied it but as much as you try to escape it in your music, influences will always find a way. But the charges are every bit pointed and poised to rouse without so much of a care.
The album’s music flows like an ornately constructed channel line. Built with a solid foundation – every screw, bolt and nail properly placed into support – the cavern rolls with rushing water. The water, fluid and steadfast, is serenely foreboding and it never ever gets to the point where it’s too small or too fast. Instead, it’s a consistently outstanding ride of proportion and balance; the equilibrium couldn’t be better suited. Each song holds its own moment of exceptional excellence without ever needing to harp on it.
You don’t need to be flashy to be a remarkably talented band. Each of the songs on The Courage of Others seems to be written specifically for that feel. “Children of the Grounds” was written with picturing Christie McVie and Mick Fleetwood providing atmospheric swells but its simplicity only adds to its depth: direct, melodic, easy-going. In that sense, the other ten songs are very simply, discreetly modified and altered to fit into one seamless album. Point in case, the aforementioned song serves as the album’s mid-way point in that it’s moving without pushing you over the edge.
In direct correlation, the title track serves as the penultimate song. Its swoon lies in the flute’s descending line and a bass that reaches for lower octaves into a spectral order of major chords. At first, its slow burn would assume it to be the last song, but that’s before the Baroque introduction of “In the Ground.” Ultimately, Midlake has created an album that can subside on its own. It never reaches sublime territory and who knows, it may not even need it but for a few in tow, there’s nothing rudimentary basic about The Courage of Others.