Song of the Day: Midlake – Acts of Man

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today‚Äôs selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Acts of Man” by Midlake from the 2010 album The Courage of Others on Bella Union.

Midlake – Acts of Man (MP3)

The acoustic alternative band from Denton, Texas, comes back with their third album, a tribute to the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Formed by a group of jazz students who later chose to pursue experimental indie rock, Midlake has managed to become one of a kind in regard to their sound, lyrics and incorporation of diverse genres and influences, such as Radiohead, Jethro Thrull, Bjork, Grandaddy and The Flaming Lips.

In bringing Midlake to a new direction of indie-rock and distinctive instrumentation, Tim Smith, primarily a saxophonist, switched to the guitar and keyboard, and aligned with drummer McKenzie Smith, guitarist Eric Nelson, keyboadist Evan Jacobs and bassist Paul Alexander to release their first long play album in 2004. Bamnan and Silvercork earned favorable reviews due to their peculiar electronic, acoustic and indie fusion. Not content to rest on a particular sound, Midlake has grown with each consecutive album. On their second, The Trials of Van Occupanther, the band developed strong ambient harmonies and a prevalent strain of seventies-era classic rock, while still continuing to use the analog synthesizer, featured prominently on Bamnan and Silvercork.

Their latest release, The Courage of Others strips the instrumentation down further in attempt to cast a warm, organic glow, much in the way of British folk artists of the ’60’s. The songs are slower and more somber, a conscious attempt to build distance from Van Occupanther‘s breakout hit “Roscoe.” But that’s only part of the story. The album is a tribute not only to the aforementioned filmmaker Tarkovsky but also to 15th-century painter in his biopic, Andrei Rublev. Rublev is portrayed through both the album’s cover art and the songs’ soft acoustic melodies, which attempt to portray man’s drift away from nature toward new technologies.

The trailer for their album, shown below, features a verse of the song “Winter Dies” and depicts the band playing while walking through the woods, an obvious reference to the transition from their second to their third album and its relation with nature.

Acts of a Man is the first single from The Courage of Others. Even though an official video has not been released, fans have posted their own versions tributing classical film styles. This one, for example, has a fragment of Murnau’s Sunrise, which effectively combines the context of the song with the scene in which The Man seeks freedom and dreams of a more idyllic life.

(Another unofficial version shows an extract of The Three Musketeers by George Sydney.)

Seattle listeners will get a chance to catch Midlake at the Sasquatch Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend. For other dates, check the band’s MySpace page.

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