» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Trials of Van Occupanther
Bella Union

Rating: 8/10 ?

August 10, 2006
Occasionally I'll find myself in a mood to listen to classic rock. It never lasts too long, but when it hits me there are a few staples I search out, Steely Dan being the first. "Reelin' In The Years" is the epitome of classic rock to my ears. It's soft rock, it's cheesy and it tries so hard to be meaningful, which is why I enjoy it. I would never put it on a personal playlist, but it will always be a go-to for me, maybe once a year. On the opposite end there are classic rock songs that are just as popular (if not more so) that I never need to hear again. Most of the songs in that category come from one band, Fleetwood Mac. That's not to say I don't enjoy a good Fleetwood Mac song, "The Chain" and the oft-covered "Landslide" are both decent pieces of music. "Don't Stop," on the other hand, is like a salty punch in the face. I just can't take it without wanting to inflict harm. There are many songs to be found in between those examples and they are played on the radio every day [much to Herboth's chagrin].

I bring up classic soft rock staples because the boys in Midlake must have spent a lot of time listening to them.

The main thing that makes this plush, comfortable rock more tolerable than your average modern soft rock is that it's somewhat of a concept album, which means it's good as gold in my book. Midlake center their tales around a character named Van Occupanther, who has a hard time finding a bride. This album is a collection of songs put in story-form, based on his hardships, or trials. See how much sense it all makes? Clever Texans.

The story begins with a man born in the 1890's who is searching for his place in the world. Being a fan of concept albums I've listened to my fair share of them and have to say that this one leaves a little to be desired in way of clear story, but each song is more than enjoyable on its own. Grouped together they make one heck of a powerful album though, again, not much of a complete, clear story.

Right out of the gate Fleetwood Mac's influence steps into the light on the album's opening track, titled "Roscoe." More so than the soft, driving piano and the acoustic guitar strumming, it is the vocal harmonies that are an exact replica to those of Lindsay Buckingham and company.

"Young Bride" appears in the middle of the album and switches up the tempo to an upbeat, almost danceable number with a folksy violin and acoustic guitar. There is a fair amount of folk-rock in the make up of this album; nothing quite as hippie as Stevie Nicks, but in the same vein. Never does it detract from the feeling of this album, but it enhances the emotional qualities of the songs to varying degrees.

There are times within the course of The Trials of Van Occupanther when the listener may require a pillow in order to pay attention to the lyrics. The soft, dreamy drear of the titular cut, "Van Occupanther," while a bit repetitive, warms the listener's heart and introduces the title character and illustrates his loneliness. This isn't Iron & Wine style loneliness, but rather more along the lines of the Decemberists covering the songs of The Alan Parsons Project.

The good far outweighs the bad on this lack-of-thread-concept-album, and if you are dying to hear a modern day take on the 70's soft rock band, check out Midlake. I seriously doubt they'll disappoint you.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig



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