Texas alt-rockers Midlake provide a selection of rich folk-fuelled tracks on their third studio album. Despite an overriding mood of dejection, it's a relaxed and easy-going listen, but only occasionally rousing.
It's difficult to examine a Midlake album without mention of the 1970s rock their sound so carefully recreates, and of one Neil Young in particular, as everything from their country-influenced acoustic guitar to their vocal style seems in thrall to the Canadian legend. Where Midlake succeed is in rooting their sound in this era without sounding dated or overly contrived. Fans of 2006's The Trials of Van Occupanther will find The Courage of Others immediately familiar, though somewhat darker and more dreary in its mood.
As on Van Occupanther, it's Midlake's harmonies that constitute their most striking and appealing quality, always mellifluous and perfectly balanced. The style is hardly unique or particularly original, but it is so well executed it hardly matters. They're most passionately heard on 'Core Of Nature', as if aching with genuine pain as they sing, "I will let the sound of these woods I have known sink into blood and to bone/I'll remain no more than is required of me until the spirit is gone". Similarly, from its understated beginning, 'Rulers, Ruling All Things' comes into force as electric guitar and voices nurture the chorus. There are hints of old English folk in the flutes that permeate many of the tracks, but while on opener 'Acts Of Man' their subtle presence is sweet and soothing, on other occasions they can feel a little twee.
While The Courage of Others is always vaguely agreeable, Midlake's trusty set up can become a little dull, especially without a standout track like Van Occupanther's 'Roscoe'. It's true that with repeated listens The Courage Of Others begins to grow on you, but even then it's a little underwhelming.