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Album Review

Midlake, 'The Courage of Others'

February 1, 2010

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It sounds paradoxical, but sometimes it takes a musician from outside the time and place of a country’s folk music to get to the essence of what makes it true. When it doesn’t work, it’s dismissed as unearned appropriation, but when it does it can unveil nuances that the progenitors of a musical form might not have realized. Distance plus time equals perspective. Where listeners fall on the relative merits of Midlake’s latest time-traveling effort will probably depend upon how readily they take to the idea of a Texas indie band recording an album of acoustic, flute-heavy Brit-folk haunted by hundreds of years of British Isles pastoral tradition. It’s a shift of geographical focus for the band - its last album traded in an Americana vernacular - that will likely garner comparisons to ’60s-era Brit folkies like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. The latter once referred to its music as “13th-century rock and roll.’’ That’s an apt shorthand for the work here as well. Or, more contemporaneously, you could say fans of fellow retro beard-rockers Fleet Foxes will find much to appreciate here. Radiohead fans, likewise, will relish “Bring Down,’’ a virtual rewrite of “Exit Music.’’ Everyone else will simply think it’s pretty. (Out tomorrow) LUKE O’NEIL

Indie Folk
Midlake The Courage of Others
Bella Union
ESSENTIAL “Bring Down’’