With the twang of a guitar, and that trademark voice – the sound of ice cracking as it is engulfed by warmer waters – Dan Michaelson opens his fourth album, Blindspot. From the very beginning of his debut record back in 2009 Michaelson’s voice, always full of such a fragile yearning, has been the centrepiece of every release.
In many ways, the voice will always be Michaelson’s iron lung. It is so unique, and so desperately beautiful that it couldn’t possibly be anything but the focus of his recordings. At the same time, though, so limited is it in terms of variety and versatility that his band the Coastguards are always stuck playing the same old sounds. There was such little development between debut Saltwater and follow-ups Shakes and Sudden Fiction that one could put the three records on shuffle and never be able to determine which track belonged to which.
Perhaps, then, this explains the approach Michaelson has taken to instrumentation on Blindspot. It is, quite frankly, gorgeous. At times sullen, at times simply lonesome, few albums have been this evocative of such a range of emotions and feelings – all of them in some way sad. Even when the music borders on inspirational in a sort of ‘Sigur Ros, but subtle’ way, the general inspiration isn’t a cheerfully manipulative Coldplay-esque ‘we can do anything!’, but rather an only vaguely hopeful ‘maybe, just maybe, we’ll make it through this’.