'Mid'dling success with 'Antiphon'

For fans of Midlake, their newest release “Antiphon” may not feel too familiar. Following the departure of lead singer and lyricist Tim Smith, the group has transformed its once recognizable indie folk sound into a progressive rock style more reminiscent Pink Floyd.

From Midlake’s 2004 debut “Bamnan and Silvercork,” their sound has evolved from quirky lo-fi to folk rock with “The Trials of Van Occupanther” in 2006 and “The Courage of Others” in 2010. Once Smith left, however, guitarist Eric Pulido came on as lead vocals, splitting the songwriting duties between all members of the band.

“Antiphon” is laden with harmonizing choral arrangements, driving instrumentation and psychedelic effects. In the opening title track, vibrato guitar and funky chords fill the song with energy and seemingly set the mood for what is to come. Unfortunately, the rest of the album makes the attention-grabbing opening seem like an anomaly.

“Provider,” the second track, is full of whirling synthesizers and psychedelic sounds, but it fails to captivate like “Antiphon” did. A similar track, “Ages,” seemed too slow and didn’t have an attention-grabbing hook to keep the listener interested.

Yes, the album’s melancholic lyrics are well-written and meaningful, and the album comes across as genuine, albeit sad. But despite these deep lyrics and surprisingly strong instrumentals, the music was at times dry and difficult to get through. Though beautiful, the tracks were inconsistent, with some far more engaging and catchy than others.

Bands mature — and Midlake should be commended for going out on a ledge and adopting a new sound rather than playing it safe. But their more progressive and psychedelic sound is not quite the resounding success I had hoped it would be. Hopefully the group’s next step is a forward one.

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