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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.'

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