Bella Union / [PIAS] 

The departure of a lead vocalist always marks an interesting turning point for a group, but it’s rare that the change is a positive one. In the event this happens and the band pushes on with a new vocalist, there is the option of putting the emphasis squarely on the band’s core sound or taking the opportunity to change things up with a fresh new direction.

Antiphon is the first release from Midlake since the departure of singer Tim Smith. Guitarist, Eric Pulido, has stepped forward for lead vocalist duties and is a solid replacement for Smith. The music is a backtracking to the amiable folk-rock of the band’s earlier work and, whilst there’s no Roscoe, it’s an improvement on 2010’s meandering The Courage Of Others.

In re-recording a set of compositions from the original sessions with Smith, Midlake Mark II have opted to stay true to their sound, so there’s little that surprises or engages on AntiphonThe Old And The Young nudges you along with its sing-along dad-rock chorus and songs like the title track and Aurora Gone attempt to play with dynamics in their gradual build-ups. But, tellingly, the best song is the arousing instrumental, Vale.

With a new line-up now established, the band should give themselves some space to evolve and develop in their own right. Pulido’s vocal fits right in with the Midlake sound, but it’s a sound that’s in danger of becoming stale.