The Courage of Others
Bella Union Records
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in the middle of a thick grove of trees somewhere in Oregon, Maine, or Vermont. It’s a brisk mid-morning in November. Maybe there’s a little snow on the ground and/or some fog surrounding you. You are wandering around admiring the canopy of trees that hides your existence and contemplating your isolation. The Courage of Others, the third album by lo-fi quintet Midlake, is your soundtrack.
Beginning with “Acts of Man” and ending with “In the Ground,” the entire album has a gloomy, contemplative feel with lead singer Tim Smith’s vocals wrapping around the issues of life, death, courage, and nature.
On “Small Mountain,” Smith sounds like a haunted John Denver when he sings, “the days mean nothing, nothing at all.” Smith also explains on the brilliantly isolating “Core of Nature,” “I will train my feet to go on with the joy/ The joy that I have yet to reach/ I will learn the sounds of these woods that I’ve known.”
The album as a whole has a very earthy folk sound to it, as if the band found a cabin in the middle of nowhere, secluded themselves from the outside world, and wrote this album in its entirety. The lyrics are hard to understand, as Smith’s vocals are mumbled to various points of incoherence. Even so, the feeling is still there. Largely acoustic and with a mood that feels like a freezing mist, The Courage of Others is a brilliantly deceptive album. Despite its depressive feel, you can’t help but come back to it and try to find yourself amid the cloudy forest.