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Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards - Blindspot

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 10 / 3 / 2013

Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards - Blindspot
Label: State51 Conspiracy
Format: CD


Bleak, but ultimately uplifting minimalism on third album from former Absentee front man, Dan Michaelson and his band the Coastguards

After a solo album in 2011, Dan Michaelson has reunited with his backing band for his fourth album since the break-up of Absentee. After self-releasing his last two albums, this sees him team up with a new label (The State51 Conspiracy). On that solo album ('Sudden Fiction', 2011), Michaelson appeared to be testing just how quiet he could make his music. On some songs, his voice barely rose above a whisper, while the music often consisted solely of the echoes and vibrations of his instruments. Meanwhile, Michaelson’s lyrics continue to document love’s little disappointments. Rather than reverting back to the neat guitar lines and soul influences that defined the Coastguards’ last outing ('Shakes', 2010), Michaelson has instead continued to explore minimalism, asking his band to add texture rather than basing his songs around guitar and drums. So, as well as the customary ripples of piano and pedal steel, there are now occasional surges of strings and horns. There are also some lovely melodies – not least on the lilting anti-lullaby ‘Sheets’, which has enjoyed airplay on 6Music in advance of the album’s release – but they take a little while to creep out of the shadows. On your first few listens, you will be entranced by the rich hum of the music. Picking apart the songs themselves will come later. Eventually, the true standout proves to ‘You Leave Me In Ruins’, a somewhat defiant lyric swelling around a strident Michael Nyman-esque string arrangement. Some of the tricks used on the aforementioned solo album return here, for example on ‘Tremors’, the squeaks as Michaelson’s figures move along the strings are mixed far higher than the chords themselves, which are barely audible. Though his deep voice is inevitably compared to Bill Callahan and Leonard Cohen, Michaelson sings like nobody else I have ever heard. He sings at the lowest possible volume – any quieter and there wouldn’t be any sound coming out at all, just a croak. No wonder he calls himself ‘Dan Mumbleson’ on Twitter. Anyone who follows Michaelson’s social media activity will know him as generally self-deprecating fellow, sending up the usual pretentions of arty-indie rock (his sales pitch for this album, for example, is that it is “already being championed online for having one of the best barcodes of 2013”). Yet, his music is a welcome distraction from day-to-day life – unhurried and (while undeniably bleak) ultimately rather uplifting.

Track Listing:-
1 No Right Way to Move
2 Enough
3 Every Fold and Crease
4 Sheets
5 You Leave Me in Ruins
6 Gambling
7 Tremors
8 By My Side

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