It’s not easy for a band to come up with a memorable sophomore album, so it was auspicious when Midlake uncorked a masterpiece with their second release, 2006’s The Trials of Van Occupanther. It’s a distillation of the band’s love for the psych folk and classic rock/pop of the ’70s and their own interpretive indie-rock gifts. Nearly four years later, the stakes are even higher for Midlake. Van Occupanther casts a long shadow over the release of the Texas quintet’s third album, The Courage of Others.
But against all odds, the band has followed brilliance with brilliance. Courage is a gorgeous, swirling hymn to British prog and folk, a gently forceful homage to early Jethro Tull (“Small Mountain”), Strawbs (“Winter Dies”), King Crimson (“Acts of Man”), and Fairport Convention (“Fortune”). But the band’s genius lies not in merely aping the ancient glories of four-decades-old icons, but in refracting that influence through the prism of contemporary inspirations like Rufus Wainwright (“Children of the Grounds”) and Radiohead (“Bring Down”), making a glorious, soaring soundtrack that is almost giddy with melancholy, longing, and sweet despair. — Brian Baker