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Midwest Dilemma
Timelines And Tragedies
(self-released)
www.midwestdilemma.com


I am not a fan of the much heralded "concept album". More often than not, they are a bloated set of records that could easily be trimmed down to ten or twelve good, or even great, songs. (The Smashing Pumpkins filler-laden Melancholy And The Infinite Sadness stands as a prime example.) Multi-instrumentalist indie rock is all the rage amongst hipsters it seems and the "concept album" is the weapon of choice. Whether it is The Decemberists, The Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens and his "states" discs, to me it washes out to be mostly about the hype bestowed upon them and very little else.

Midwest Dilemma, a group from Omaha, Nebraska, has changed my mind about the "concept record" for their exceptional Timelines And Tragedies, but don't get me wrong, this is a special case and my disgust for most "concept records" will surely return upon completion of this review. Justin Lamormeux, lead vocalist/guitarist, and his band of merry men and women paint a broad musical landscape with Timelines; spanning from 1662 to present day, it is a story fraught with loss, desperation, discontent, love and brilliance. The album is able to take on different times ("Fur Trader", "The Great depression"), places ("Montréal", "Omaha") and topics without falling into the pit of pretentiousness that sucks in many an indie Mozart.

For the collective that is Midwest Dilemma it is a chance taken and the beautifully flawed words and compositions pay off in spades. Timelines is an expansive work made better by Lamormeux's Neil Young/Adam Duritz/Bob Dylan/Conor Oberst hybrid vocals; he is a young man old before his time. He holds an obvious understanding of pain and composition that few of the planet grasp.

Many styles (from bluegrass to gospel) and many unique instruments are used to great effect on the album. Vibraphone, Tuba, Clarinet, Viola Pomposa are just a few used with delicate purity and artist abandon. Timelines And Tragedies is a complete work. It is a history lesson; it shows us that even though time has moved on, man's past leaves its mark and today and tomorrow. Lamormeux's effort is a solid one; it is legacy, heredity, ugliness, vivaciousness and humility.

The only tragedy that could befall the talented group of musicians that make up Midwest Dilemma is the off chance that Timelines And Tragedies is not embraced wholeheartedly by a massive following of college students, people who appreciate folk in all its forms and hipster romantics in the coming months. The superior storytelling and perfected neurosis of Timelines would make even the late Nick Drake crack a smile.

I like that concept.

-Danny R. Phillips

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