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AM Radio Gets a Modern Sheen

Midlake has transformed its sound into a '70s-infuenced folk-pop experience.
Midlake has transformed its sound into a '70s-infuenced folk-pop experience.

The music of the '70s often serves as a negative influence on modern performers, conjuring un-enticing images of cheesy arrangements and corny kitsch. The Texas band Midlake has changed its sound dramatically on The Trials of Van Occupanther, transforming its poppy, keyboard-driven music into a deeper, '70s-influenced folk-pop experience. But while the album hearkens back to a sound familiar to those with AM radios, there's also a refreshingly modern touch to Midlake's "Roscoe," a sincerely emotional song from a band hitting its stride.

The first few seconds of "Roscoe" conjure brief memories of The Eagles or Steve Miller, but almost immediately, Tim Smith's vocals — which bring to mind the more contemporary work of, say, Thom Yorke — take over and float above intricate arrangements that stay rooted in the past. The lyric tells a touching story of trying to simplify a complicated world, as well as how, even in 1891, they felt a similar sense of nostalgia themselves. Smith begs listeners to "listen to me, listen to me," and there's no reason to turn him down.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Richards
John Richards is the host and producer of The Morning Show with John on 90.3 FM KEXP Seattle, and online at kexp.org. He is also KEXP's assistant program director.