The Best Songs in Dallas Music, 2010: Midlake Wants To Be Left To Its Own Ways at No. 13

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[Over the next few weeks, we'll be presenting our favorite local songs of the year, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1, one track a day. Today, we take an in-depth look at song No. 13 on the list -- and, please, feel free to click after the jump to grab a free download of the track. Also after the jump, check out songs No. 50-14 in the Top 50 list that will update as it grows...]

As full albums go, I think it's safe to say that I spent more time this year contemplating the merits of Midlake's The Courage of Others more than I did any other release in 2010. And I've got the proof -- to the tune of 5,000 or so words dedicated to perhaps the most important record ever to come out of Denton, as published back in January.

Here's the short version: It's a perplexing record, for the most part, one that stridently goes against the conventions of modern-day album production. Courage, indeed, is as deeply rooted in its themes as it is in its vast arrangements. And make no mistake: It's an album, not a singles factory.

In that vein, it's a far different record than Midlake's 2006 breakthrough, The Trails of Van Occupanther, which, while hinting at fully embracing the complete album concept, spurred two singles, "Young Bride" and "Roscoe," that propelled the band to the success it still enjoys internationally today. And though a few songs from Courage were in fact released as singles ("Act of Man" and "Rulers, Ruling All Things"), that's not the idea at play on this disc; instead, the band uses the discs almost 42-minute runtime to craft a lush soundscape, filled with transporting lyricism and imagery.

It's understandable, then, that the disc enjoyed far greater acclaim in the U.K. than it did stateside. If there's one difference between the U.S. and the Old Country that's become increasingly clear in recent years, it's that, where we enjoy quantity, those listeners enjoy quality.

Courage is filled with quality -- but not on standout hit single. But don't kid yourself. There's plenty of greatness in Courage.

Bonus mp3:

Midlake -- "Rulers, Ruling All Things"

Perhaps the most difficult thing about Courage is identifying its strongest track. Given the somber mood strewn throughout the album, determining the best is akin to deciding not just whether or not you're sad, but what kind of sad you happen to be. If one track embodies the emotions of the entire album best, though, it's the gripping "Rulers, Ruling All Things."

Lyrically, the entire album stands as a gem, but never more so than here, in which frontman Tim Smith bemoans the state of the world and the lost feeling that comes when one realizes that they don't have the control over it that they once thought they did.

Is it a commentary on medieval feudalism? Is it an analogy about the way the world is today? It is a statement on the band's very touchy position heading into this, the follow-up to its career-defining record? Yes, all of the above. And that's what makes it such a wallop of a track.

Sings Smith: "Thinking the world was mine to be lost in / I ran with freedom and sank in between / For I have the path of wonder / There before me."

Introspective, revelatory and heart-wrenching, "Rulers, Ruling All Things" finds a band pondering its place in the world and coming to grips with the not-so-great answer it's leaning toward.

Many have penned songs that focus on this same topic; few have so willingly taken it to such existential ends. "Rulers, Ruling All Things" may come on a disc called The Courage of Others, but traveling down so risky a path only stands to emphasize the courageous nature of the band behind it.

The Top 50 Local Songs of 2010 (Links to music videos and free song downloads available where applicable; links to streams where neither a download nor video exists.)
50. Dear Human - "Waiting"
49. Nervous Curtains - "All Yesterday's Parties"
48. Spector 45 - "Try Try Try"
47. Smile Smile - "Beg You To Stay"
46. Robert Gomez - "A Natural State"
45. Florene - "Parc Bitch"
44. Mount Righteous - "Eat Your Wife and Kiss The Barbecue"
43. The Strange Boys - "Be Brave"
42. Soft Environmental Collapse - "A Horse & Buggy Complex"
41. Deepspace5 - "Killing With Kindness"
40. Sextape -- "Lubricated Intimacy"
39. Museum Creatures - "Song ABC"
38. Ocelot - "Beating Hears"
37. Sir Silky - "The Squeeze (The Answer)"
36. Bone - "Homegurl"
35. Ishi - "Come Closer"
34. Hoyotoho - "Born Black"
33. Dorrough - "Get Big"
32. Katie Carroll - "Paper Girl"
31. Final Club - "Ruded"
30. Treal Lee & Prince Rick - "Throwed Off (Fuck Errbody)"
29. South San Gabriel - "All Night Long"
28. The Rocket Summer - "Walls"
27. Darktown Strutters - "Lucifer Rising"
26. School of Seven Bells - "Windstorm"
24. The Burning Hotels - "Austin's Birthday"
23. Doug Burr - "At The Public Dance"
22. The Flowers of God 

feat. Sarah Jaffe
feat. Sarah Jaffe

21. Dondria -- "You're The One"
20. Sundress - "Locust"
19. Blixaboy - "Lion Eyes (featuring Emil Rapstine)"
18. A.Dd+ feat. Brown of Sore Losers - "Likeamug"
17. The Secret Handshake - "Every Single Time"
16. Lalagray - "The Hard Part"
15. Sore Losers - "Free Loaders"
14. Leg Sweeper - "Sexy Weekend"

Midlake -- "Rulers, Ruling All Things"

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