Midlake Antiphon(ATO Records) Buy it from Insound
Midlake’s new album sounds like one of those records that makes Indie music reviewers go all gooey inside, like a teenager who just won a date with one of the cast of One Direction. Probably the one with the fucked up head. You know, the one who looks like his head was subject to a failed nuclear experiment in 1950s Japan; the one who looks like he has a particularly malignant form of hair cancer; the one who literally looks like a Cabbage Patch kid; the one who looks like he went to the barber and said “give me the John Merrick”.
Enough. Things start out promising with the title track, a driving, mildly intense offering with delicate harmonies and an interesting melody. Well, that about sums up my review. Seriously, because every song on this record has pretty much the same vibe and pulls off the trick with relatively consistent success. The tempos vary, sort of, but there’s a mood on this record that’s hard to qualify and never wavers. It has a lot to do with the vocals, which are presented with a fairly cavernous reverb and harmonized or double-tracked: sometimes it’s very hard to tell what exactly is going on.
Another thing that gives the record cohesion, for better or worse, is that virtually every song is in a minor key. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate choice, it would almost have to be, because I can’t imagine what point they’d be making with it other than they like how it sounds. I generally like how it sounds too – again, catnip for reviewers. Sometimes, when an artist is operating on all cylinders, this unity of theme and mood can be a strength; I think of Nico’s The Marble Index as a good example. Here, for me at least, it gets a little wearing, probably because there isn’t enough emotional heft at its core to sustain it.
I could easily accept Antiphon as a “put it on and forget about it” record, but the sad thing is it feels like it could have been more than that. But it’s not, so what can you do? Put it on and forget about it.13 January, 2014 - 04:13 — Alan Shulman