As the charts heave under the weight of so-so soft rock, Midlake suggest the genre isn't all bad. From the remote rock outpost of Denton, Texas, they look lovingly to Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, but also to the darker genius of Peter Hammill. They have clearly listened closely to the Blue Nile's debut and Radiohead's OK Computer. However, they bring it all together in a vision of their own. The Trails of Van Occupanther places itself in the head of an imaginary 19th-century hermit. This allows vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Tim Smith to ponder everything from unrequited love to the environment. The songwriting is rich, delivering an almost hallucinatory mix of pianos, horns, guitars and painfully wistful reminisces. This could well end up one of 2006's best.
CD: Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author