When a band loses its chief songwriter and lead singer, they typically either call it quits or change their name. Even if they stay together, it’s likely a relatively lackluster album will follow — like Yuck’s Glow & Behold. Fortunately, none of this happened to Midlake. After Tim Smith left the band last year while recording, the remaining members carried on, writing all new songs, and completely scrapping the Smith-written material. Like Yuck, Midlake looked within their ranks to replace their departed lead singer, promoting guitarist Eric Pulido to take over the singing duties on Antiphon.
Midlake moves in a new direction on the LP, veering away from 2006’s stellar Fleetwood Mac-inspired The Trials Of Van Occupanther and the ambitious British folk stylings of The Courage Of Others into more prog-influenced rock music. Unconventional instruments remain a part of the formula, like an airy flute on the crescendoing instrumental “Vale” echoing the Fleet Foxes vibe of their last record. Even though they’ve gone down a decidedly new path led by a new singer, it’s still unquestionably Midlake. Vocally, the band lucked out with Pulido — his voice closely fits in with the feel of the band and is about as close in tone and range as Smith’s without being a facsimile.
The distorted guitars, proggy synths, and soaring harmonies of the opening title track lay intense groundwork, and the galloping rhythm section of “The Old And The Young” makes for one of the band’s best songs since Occupanther highlight “Roscoe”. On “Aurora Gone”, Midlake return to the woodsy ethereal folk of their previous two offerings, a welcome reminder of their potential heights. At the other end of the spectrum, tracks like “Corruption” and “Provider Reprise” meander, missed opportunities rather than memorable songs.
Thankfully for fans of the Denton, TX-based band, Antiphon sounds like a Midlake record despite the massive changes, and it’s full of characteristically moody yet accessible songs. While we’ll likely see the direction in which Tim Smith wanted to take the band on his forthcoming collection of songs under the moniker Harp, Midlake has made a strong statement with Antiphon, quelling the doubts surrounding Smith’s departure.
Essential Tracks: “Provider”, “The Old And The Young”, and “This Weight”