Text: Lucy Olsman
Translation: Laura Rosierse
Nine years after their previous album, the six-piece folk-rock group Midlake is back. The band from Texas created eleven songs with mostly psychedelic sounds, perfect for the approaching spring. The album ‘For the Sake of Bethel Woods’ perfectly shows how hard the group has worked to further develop their music. The songs flow seamlessly into each other, making the listening experience one that seems uninterrupted. It’s a cohesive story that takes you along, making this album suitable for a sunny afternoon in the park. Just like in an exciting story, the songs have a sound that is very different from each other in their core, but still work well together. As a result, the songs not only bring peace of mind, but also make you constantly want to know what happens next.
‘For the Sake of Bethel Woods’ opens with a religious touch: ‘Commune’ refers to the “Prince of Peace” who took away “the days of want and need”. This theme is one that proves overarching for the album’s lead track: ‘Bethel Woods’. Bethel is a Hebrew word that refers to the house of God. The folk-rockers seem very in touch with their religious side on this latest album. The comfort, joy and sometimes darker times that religion can bring are conveyed through instruments that sometimes flow in a more melancholic way, while happier songs are more rhythmic. ‘Noble’ is a song that stands out as a bit darker than the rest. “I stayed up for hours and hours […] / Wondering how we will get by.” is a line that highlights the darker sides of the group’s life. However, the song also brings back a sense of hope after the ‘Prince of Peace’ from ‘Commune’ came in like an angel: “You came in / Like a cherubim.” We learn that the group has also endured times when they would have preferred to give up their faith. In ‘Meanwhile…’ they describe, accompanied by a cheerful, festive sound, that the effort they put into their faith at times became too much: “I do fear that the end is near” and “All the little things that brought us here / Were they insincere?” However, this text is again followed by a moment of enlightenment where God came to them in a dream, after which they regained the courage to continue.
The title of the album, ‘For the Sake of Bethel Woods’ is therefore an excellently chosen name for the album. Everything Midlake has been through has had a purpose. It was “for the sake of Bethel Woods,” or rather, “for the sake of the house of God.” The album captures the emotional journey of religion well, alternating between different-sounding instrumentals. Some songs have the power to convey sadness, while the majority convey a sense of calm joy. It is a fitting album for a wide audience, because the whole life, apart from religion, also resembles a long road in which sometimes happy and sometimes sad times are known. We can use ‘For the Sake of Bethel Woods’ as a reminder that we are not alone on such a varied path. Midlake has done an excellent job of giving us this sense of belonging.
ATO Records / Bella Union / PIAS