New Music Tuesdays (February 2nd, 2010)

2 Feb

Midlake

The Courage Of Others

Bella Union

7.5/10

Since the release of Bamnam and Silvercork in 2004, Midlake has been defined by the different, gravitating towards the nostalgia of classic rock, yet drawing comparisons to the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes through their dreamlike tranquility and reflexive nature.  Mellow yet engaging, personal yet removed, their latest effort, The Courage of Others is no different – an exception to the Midwestern rock rule, but still not entirely on board the bandwagon of folk.

Opening with the mellow “Acts of Man”, the band quickly showcases their affinity for harmonies and textural offerings, submerging listeners in the loveliness of multi-dimensional stylings that are a much-needed contrast to lead singer Tim Smith’s monotone vocals.

Perhaps due to the band’s gentle nature – though their talent is evident – they seem almost passive, lacking sincerity in their efforts, yet maintaining their quiet beauty that keeps listeners interested as opposed to pulling away.  The the band’s love of 70’s rock is quite prevalent as the record moves forward, with “The Courage of Others” paralleling scenes out of coming-of-age films set to a provoking soundtrack.  However, while you long to be surrounded by self-realizations and hope to be pulled close, Midlake seems to keep you afar, leaving the intimate feel they’ve created nearly erased as they introduce an electric persuasion.

However, the record’s true highlights lay hidden within the middle, as “Core of Nature” and “Rulers, Ruling All Things” embrace the notion of poetry and classic rock.  Lyrically rich and undoubtedly pretty, “Rulers . . .” presents the perfect mix of instrumentals, vocals and inspiration, invoking the emotions listeners have craved since the first track.  “Children of the Grounds” cement the album as a critical success, with its perfectly orchestrated harmonies, melodies  and guitars enthusiastically adding a sense of nostalgia without branding The Courage of Others as a mere throwback effort.

Midlake’s latest release will undoubtedly solidify the band as an ensemble both appreciative and understanding of the importance of thought-provoking music.  While at times listeners may be left for want, it’s only a result of their hunger for more.  More melodies, more tracks, more heartbreaking harmonies – more potential realized by the Texas natives whose talent and uniqueness can take them anywhere.

Anne T Donahue

Hot Chip

One Life Stand

EMI Music

6/10
Beware. Hot Chip is going to turn your musical expectations upside down with their fourth full-length album, One Life Stand. But not in the way that anyone expects. The fact of the matter is that nine of the ten songs, at least lyrically, are celebrating the positive aspects of love. However, without knowledge of the English language, that sentiment is impossible to detect.

The songs are all so inherently melancholic at their core, that even with lovingly tender lyrics, the wounded sound that results is enough to make one wonder if the lyrics were written during a high point of a relationship and the music at its lowest point/demise. Even featured steel pans by Fimber Bravo sound gloomy, making way for the kazoo to snag the title of ‘happiest sounding instrument.’

And while most of these love songs endorse an unwarranted sense of doom, there are a couple tracks that are downright uncomfortable. “Slush,” for example, opens with a repeated melody of “ha-min-nuh ha-min-nuh,” which the general public is familiar with as the trademark uttering of perverts. The potentially beautiful lines, “Now that we’re older, there’s more that we must do. The songs we remember… remember my love is with you” just doesn’t go down the same way after the musical equivalent of being eye-sexed by David Spade.

Then the most house-influenced song, “We Have Love,” argues that “there is nothing else to be proud of” than to “have love,” which seems silly coming from Hot Chip, who have so much more to be proud of! A five-some from London, England, they’ve not only been successfully hustling their own brand of electro-dance music for the past 10 years, but also in some circles the single “Ready for the Floor” from their last release, Made in the Dark, was an anthem for 2008.

And this album’s anthem would have to be “I Feel Better,” whose synth-strings produce the proper punch, aiding in the delivery of the buoyant counsel, “Nothing is wasted. Life is worth living… There is the day that is yours for embracing.” This song as well as “Thieves in the Night,” “Hand Me Down Your Love,” and current single “One Life Stand,” start off the album strong, but then it loses its footing a little until the concluding track, “Take It In.”

Hot Chip may want to be your one life stand, but the real question is: Do you want to be theirs? Maybe you should wait until their next album before you give them your answer.

Melissa Kim

Posted by : Anne T Donahue and Melissa Kim

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