The Trials of Van Occupanther is Midlake’s sophomore album. It was released in 2006 on Bella Union Records. I’m reviewing this four year old album simply because it is one of my favorite efforts of this past decade and with each listen it only gets better.
Midlake’s quiet rock composure really shines on this album. The disc is filled with songs about adventure and the hardships that come with it. It takes you back to a simpler time. Mostly set in the woods, on some hillside somewhere, or a ship traveling to some unknown target, the lyrical portrait that is painted here is brilliant, but not too detailed. It takes you to these places so vividly, yet leaves a lot of blanks to fill in for yourself. The album is relatable, but possibly only to someone who lived 150 years ago. That, however, is where the beauty lies. You can’t help but feel heartbroken for the subjects of these tunes. They are always fighting for survival or the one they love. These songs are frightfully tragic at almost every turn. It’s a good thing Midlake has a way of highlighting the beauty in tragedy. It’s breathtaking really, almost Shakespearean.
On the song “Branches”, for instance, we hear love unanswered. About a man in love with his neighbor, “We won’t get married/cause she won’t have me”. By the end of the song you feel as though you yourself are in love with this person. To anyone who has had love go unreturned, you’ll see what I mean about this album being relatable.
The vocals are layered and arranged in such a way that draws you in even more. These arrangements make the vocals feel more like another instrument in the band instead of just liner notes to be ignored. This also makes it fun to sing along to, which is more than you can say for many albums these days.
This disc, needless to say, comes highly recommended by me. Not too many albums are going to get a 10/10 rating from yours truly. Get your paws on it and have a listen. If you’re anything like me you’ll find it hard to forget about.