Pulido favors the same warm-blooded but affectless style, often laying into his open vowels as if to evoke a French horn. Antiphon still reflects Midlake’s admiration for late-’60s psychedelic folk and early-’70s folk-rock, though the rhythms skew more muscular than before.
But what sort of band is Midlake now, exactly? During the reign of Smith, its air of careful antiquarianism seemed to come from a well-guarded but convincingly guileless place. The songs on Antiphon are messier but more artful, sometimes with awkward implications. It’s Going Down has the ghostly autoharp, chiming guitar part and softly juddering toms of a track by Grizzly Bear. The Old and the Young rides a soft-rock shuffle that brings Fleetwood Mac to mind.
The lyrics of that song, incidentally, reflect the band’s often stiffly overwrought syntax. “Time will have warranted / All that the foliage brung,” Pulido sings at the top of the first verse, repeating it later as a callback. Similar formalities crop up on Ages and Aurora Gone and especially Provider, which includes the couplet “With bird in hand, a cry for all the land / Joy to gain.”
Then again, Midlake didn’t choose this album’s framework arbitrarily. The title track paints a picture of cynical leaders and obedient masses, gradually slipping into a muted defiance. The final line, sung in a fading haze of feedback: “To the call, a response.”
— NATE CHINEN