After years of deep suspicion and resistance to Midlake, primarily due to their very beardy, early seventies aesthetic, I’m afraid I have succumbed. My resistance has been crushed by the monumentally catchy yet really great The Old and The Young. Appearing three tracks into the album, on first listen it sounds like a seventies throwback, but then you start noticing modern touches such as the pulsing keyboards here and there. None of this overshadows a genuinely majestic singalong melody, even the flutes midsong work a treat.
The danger with a song as strong as this is that it relegates the rest of the album to support act status. This is far from the case here. Previous singer Tim Smith quit the band after 2010’s The Courage of Others, so guitarist Eric Pulido has stepped up to the mark. His vocals really suit the music here, leading with title track Antiphon, which strides triumphantly from the speakers, proclaiming "Antiphon! Antiphon!".
The album is stuffed full of great melodies, Provider has a kind of seventies singalong melody with medieval allusions in the lyrics - "onward forth into a land unknown, swords were drawn upon the road." It's awful b*ll*x, but it works well in the context of the song. The album divides neatly in two by the appearance of proggy instrumental Vale, and this leads nicely into the folky Aurora Gone, featuring another fine Pulido vocal. Ages, later in the album, again has that medieval, almost psychedelic feel to it, while also showcasing some great guitar work, and The Weight has a lovely, wordless singalong chorus.
A fine, fine album showing this band can survive Smith's departure without losing much.