Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
In the years since Denton, Texas act Midlake released their final album, 2010’s The Courage of Others, lead singer Tim Smith has been digging himself out of that beloved band’s ‘70s rock and traditional folk songbook. With new project Harp, led with his wife Kathi Zung, Smith mixes austere folk rock with elements of ‘80s groups like The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, and, most notably, The Cure, whose album Faith Smith says he listened to nonstop for three years.
The instrumentation on Harp’s debut release Albion is clean and led primarily by acoustic instruments, but they are generally cloaked in a good amount of chorus, which lends the music a considerable wet quality. As with Smith’s work with Midlake, flutes show up but feel more New Age than Dark Ages when mixed with the cavernous drum sounds, light synths, and acoustic guitars that bleed into one another. When it all comes together, Harp’s music has a gothic tinge that is only heightened by Smith’s evocative croon.
After mood-setting instrumental intro “The Pleasant Grey,” “I Am The Seed” plays like a long-lost melancholy classic to soundtrack with its blooming Angelo Badalamenti-esque synths and pristine flute lead. Throughout the album, Smith harmonizes his vocals to great effect, such as on “Daughters of Albion” and “Country Cathedral Drive.” But some of the most moving moments occur when the instrumentation is left as bare as possible, such as on the brief, angelic folk number “Chrystals.”
After the brisk “Throne Of Amber,” which finds Smith making plans for his spirit to enter the celestial realm, the album concludes with “Herstmonceux,” a slow-moving and continuously smoldering track that feels more comforting than what has preceded it. “Quietly the sorrow flees from me/ Bright as day the soul no longer grieves,” Smith sings as Albion comes to a close, “I am the seed/ I wait, I wait for thee.”