There are good bands that write well-crafted songs and play them capably, even managing to inject their heads and hearts into the process. And that's fine. More than you could reasonably expect from drums and wires. More than most of their colleagues can muster. Then there are the great bands, the ones that do all of the above, yet somehow transcend the situation. With them, you don't just hear the collective effort of four or five guys who've figured out how to string together clever guitar licks and interesting lyrics, the tug-of-war of different personalities. It's a singular sound, a sniper instead of a shotgun. Such is the case with Denton's Midlake and the group's debut full-length, the tongue-twistingly titled Bamnan and Slivercork. From the first song, "They Cannot Let It Expand," which more or less boils down to singer Tim Smith repeating the title, the band builds its own universe, a mellow and melancholy metropolis with balloon makers and "Kingfish Pies" and cupcakes in the air. It's a place located somewhere between Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, where the residents suck down candy-coated codeine and escape (in a balloon, of course) is attempted on a regular basis. It's a great place to visit, but from the sound of it, you wouldn't want to live there.

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