Pleasant but never bland, Midlake’s For The Sake Of Bethel



It’s debatable whether they’d take this as a compliment, but Midlake have learned to relax. Their fifth album, their first in just shy of a decade, is perhaps their most purely enjoyable, eschewing the furrow-browed genre-jumbling of earlier work. 

It’s the atypical Texans’ second with Eric Pulido singing (Tim Smith left in 2012), and allows some sultry soft rock to breathe without worrying whether it’s scoring alt.folk points. So it exhales warm gusts of Boz Scaggs or Josh Rouse, as the tricksy, Tull-like prog tropes of yore are kept to a minimum. 

As ever, pleasant shouldn’t be mistaken for bland. The album mulls over time, illness and innocence, while the spirits of Neil Young and Stephen Stills set the temperature. 

Their first with an outside producer – John Congleton (St. Vincent, John Grant, Blondie) – it’s especially elegant around its mid-section (Feast Of Carrion, Noble). Midlake have gone back to the garden.


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