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Ears & Fingers 11/14/13

by Jason Leger

Midlake – ‘Antiphon’
Our culture loves a good underdog story. We crave hearing that when the odds are stacked against us and the world wants us to fail, that there is still hope for victory and redemption. It is food for the soul to know that when the ground crumbles beneath us, all is not lost. These types of stories, fictional or not, give us reason to continue plodding on when tragedy strikes or disappointment sets in. We desperately need them.

Over the course of the past year or so, Austin’s Midlake received quite a blow; their frontman and lead songwriter, Tim Smith, up and quit. Many bands would not recover from this sort of departure, as in some sense, a person with this role becomes the face of sorts. This is my beef with Stone Temple Pilots at the moment. Scott Weiland is, at the very least, equally as reputable as the face of STP as the DeLeo brothers are, but they part ways and the DeLeos and drummer Eric Kretz hire… Chester Bennington?! And have the balls to continue calling it Stone Temple Pilots? Ugh. I digress.

The departure of Tim Smith forced guitarist Eric Pulido into the vacant spot of lead singer and led the band to work more succinctly together as a unit for songwriting. The product is “Antiphon,” which is a fitting title as it means reply or response and this is the band’s response to a bad situation. Ten songs, clocking in at right around 44 minutes, “Antiphon,” in all honesty, has moments of being that phoenix rising from the ashes, but also seems to struggle to remain in flight.

The album starts on a very strong point with the title track, which begins with the words, “Start a war.”  Even without Smith at the helm, this song along with the track that followed, “Provider,” felt reminiscent of where Midlake has been, while simultaneously keeping them fresh and relevant. “The Old and the Young” is one of the catchier songs I’ve ever heard from Midlake, and “Vale” is a very interesting track, to say the least. Those four are the highlights of the album. I refuse to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but there is definitely a point around midway through where listening intently really became tedious for me and the high point “Antiphon” started on was no longer anywhere in sight. However, even remotely calling this a bust considering what the band has gone through over the past year would simply be untrue. Midlake have landed on their feet.

“Antiphon” is out now via ATO Records.

If You Haven’t Heard: Blood Orange
Devonté “Dev” Hynes has worn several hats and gone by several names, probably most notably being Lightspeed Champion. Most recently, he has been a producer for some names that you have probably heard a lot of over the past couple of years; names like Solange and Sky Ferreira. The guy has proven he can write some dark pop tracks, and now he is making a name for himself with them. Under the moniker Blood Orange, Hynes is pumping out brooding R&B tunes that are chill, pensive, and catchy as hell. Hynes’ upcoming album, “Cupid Deluxe,” has already produced two gems in lead single “Chamakay” and fierce follow-up “You’re Not Good Enough,” which features Samantha Urbani from the band Friends. Pitchfork calls the latter track a “vindictive punch” in the vein of late ‘70s era Prince, and I couldn’t have stated it better. Understanding the production he has done for some hot rising stars, knowing the impressive cast of collaborators in his back pocket, and taking into account these first two tracks from “Cupid Deluxe,” it’s safe to say that 2014 could see some big things for Blood Orange. “Cupid Deluxe” is out November 18 via Domino Records.