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Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards - Memory

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 3 / 7 / 2016

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


Melancholic but haunting mini-album from London-based singer-songwriter, Dan Michaelson and his band the Coastguards

Part whisper, part croak – not, perhaps, how you would want your own voice to sound. And yet, Dan Michaelson somehow takes such unpromising beginnings to great heights – putting himself to what sounds like great lengths to sing incredibly quietly, consistently treading a fine line between tenderness and completely missing the note. Singing teachers would baulk at it, and nobody would advise anyone else to copy it, but it works It is that voice that sets Dan Michaelson apart. A flick through the Pennyblackmusic archives will show you that his recent run of albums have all been worthy of your attention and this, his sixth 'solo' record (one of these was completely solo and the others all find him joined by '… and the Coastguards') is no exception. So, it has reached the point where I cannot realistically 'review' his latest album. I can simply tell you how much I like it. It is simply an enthralling listening experience, one you will want to go back to. The songs are sad, with lyrics that can be either starkly direct or tantalisingly vague, often in the same line. The melodies burn slowly, but are driven along by haunting arrangements that hint at jazz, post-rock and film soundtracks, while never distracting from Michaelson's voice. At times, the instruments appear in conflict, and then they swell, unleashing a short moment of uplifting beauty. At times, you are straining to listen as Michaelson's love of minimalism takes hold, at other times, the tunes almost bounce into pop territory (only almost, though... they never quite get there.) It is a record of fine lines and careful craftmanship. There have, in fact, been a few subtle changes since 2014's 'Distance'. The drums are slightly more to the fore now, and the string arrangements take a little more prominence. However, while there were one or two faster tracks on 'Distance', this time there are just seven songs, all at the Coastguards' default pace – think a vintage soul 45 played at 33rpm. But, if you know Michaelson's music, I can tell you that everything is broadly where you would expect to find it. There is the usual air of brooding melancholy. There are the songs that seem to be barely songs at all at first, and yet remain in your thoughts long after you've listened to them. You can buy in confidence. If you don't know his music, this is a good place to get to know it. An album of seven tracks risks being too short, but carries the powerful advantage of having no filler. When you get to the end, you want more. It's too early to say where it ranks in comparison to his earlier records, but having spent the past month listening to it obsessively I'm tempted to say it may even be his best yet.

Track Listing:-
1 Tides
2 Memory
3 Missing Piece
4 Lost Birds
5 Undo
6 No Other Way
7 Half the Reason

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