While on tour in Holland, Midlake shot a video for their song “Rulers, Ruling All Things” that features them milling around the woods playing their instruments. Shot in a grainy, saturated style, you see them sitting down cross-legged in the grass playing their acoustic guitars and standing around playing their flutes. The video serves as an accurate visual representation of their music: what you see matches what you hear. Lead singer Tim Smith sings, “I stood in awe of the whole creation,” and the band does exactly that.
Midlake’s music evokes the woodsy, kaleidoscopic scenes of nature that the video portrays. Tim Smith’s soothing, low-key voice is backed by plucked and strummed acoustic guitars, slow and steady bass and drums, and keys and flutes that add flourishes to the calm current of their music. Midlake’s music is at peace with the world, but Smith’s lyrics are searching for the values and stories that make sense out of humanity’s place in this world.
The Courage of Others is Midlake’s third and latest album, following the critically acclaimed 2006 album The Trials of Van Occupanther. On that album is the song “Roscoe,” which is one of Midlake’s most driving and affecting songs. It finds Smith dreaming of another time and life altogether: “I wonder what if my name had changed / into something more productive / like Roscoe, born in 1891 / waiting with my aunt Roslein.” It is this imagining of another world while also taking account of the beauty of the one we live in, that makes Midlake a worthy listen.
- Ben Dixon