Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards – Blindspot
If you’re feeling a little blue, the standard cure is a quick shot of Leonard Cohen. You soon realise there’s someone more depressed than yourself and the effect is curiously uplifting. Now, for the jealous, the jilted, and the genuinely sorrowful, there’s Dan Michaelson. This is his fourth album as the gravel-voiced embodiment of self-pity and things don’t seem to be getting much better for him. His lovers keep leaving. His heart keeps breaking. But somehow he keeps it all together and he keeps writing great music. The tunes are perhaps a little one-paced. But that’s not really the point. A Dan Michaelson album is never going to be a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Just lows. And the lowest of them all is that inimitable voice. Well, imitable maybe if you’re Greg Brown, or if you have bad cold and a really sore throat and you’re smoking 60 a day. But inimitable otherwise. Narrow though its range might be, it’s a voice that communicates a certain mood perfectly. A Dan Michaelson mood to be sure. A couple of times he almost sings, but blink and you’ll miss them. Mostly it’s Lee Marvin-style sing-talking. But the voice by itself wouldn’t be enough. The real beauty of a Dan Michaelson album lies in the combination of the voice and the orchestration. Backed by slightly tinkling pianos, restrained percussion, and flecks of steel guitar, the songs are cushioned in a certain luxury. It would be interesting to hear Dan Michaelson as a producer-arranger. He has a brilliant way of getting the best from his own vocal limitations. What would he do with a more tuneful palette? We can only dream. All of which is to say that however low he may go, a Dan Michaelson album is never a miserable affair. It’s never depressing. It has that wonderful capacity to lift you up. So, if you’ve just had that “We have to talk” moment and been told that “It’s not you, it’s me”, then let Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards throw you a life line. Just hang on. You won’t regret it.