Midlake: The Courage of Others

This group of Texan jazz students have released 11 hobbit-rock dirges that all sound the same.

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Midlake are a band of Texan jazz students who have, over their three albums, renounced rhythm for a folk-revival-revival sound. The nominal influences on the latest, The Courage of Others, are the usual suspects: Pentangle, Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band, though it sounds to me more like scene rejects such as Comus or Trees. Fingerpicked acoustic guitars ripple and chime, flutes drift about melancholically and Tim Smith sings like Beirut's Zach Condon if he had just overslept and missed the best part of the day. The tempos are leaden, the sentiments weedy. "I will never have the courage of others," Smith moans on the title track. "I was always taught to worry about things/ All the many things you can't control." Poor old him. Still, if you can stifle the urge to slap them, there are pleasures here. The playing is richly detailed, even if it never captivates like a Richard Thompson solo would. The production has a warmth and mossy softness that will make it quite inviting in danker climates. And you can't fault the consistency of vision: I've listened to the thing four times now and still can't tell the songs apart. Perhaps Smith underrates himself. Not everyone would have the nerve to release 11 hobbit-rock dirges which all sound the same.