Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Middle East - The Recordings of the Middle East (2008)

The Middle East are a hard band to stick a genre tag onto. They combine folk and ambience with elements of pop, post-rock and shoegaze. In similar fashion to some other genre-bending bands (Deerhunter, for example), they've managed to do it in a way which establishes their own sound.

Album opener 'The Darkest Side' is a soft, acoustic song with some nice vocal harmonies between the singers. Though the song has a simple theme of death, it's delivered in a rather uncanny manner through the lyrics. The first chorus, for instance, has this little gem: "I hear the farthest cry and the softest sigh when I'm empty; But if you leave me I'll hide in a game like SimCity." 'Beleriand', one of the stronger tracks on the album, begins with an echoing cluster of guitars and drums before settling with a hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitar riff. 'Lonely' does quite the opposite, starting off with a chilling combination of soft guitar playing with ambient electronics, building into a cymbal-and-harmony-driven climax. 'Tsietsi', the 13-minute album closer, is a roller-coaster of a closer, switching tempos here and there. The only consistent about the song is its beauty.

The highlight of the album, and with no question as to why it's become their most loved song, is 'Blood', a simply wonderful song that builds up to a powerful climax involving pianos, xylophones and some of the most delightful chanting put on record. With deep, painful context that involves family heartache and despair, the song works to invoke joy or sadness quite easily.

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