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Dan Michaelson & the Coastguards
Shakes Julian Marszalek , October 28th, 2010 10:24

The awkwardness of courtship, the redemptive power of love and the incomparable pain of heartache have fuelled the passions of songwriters ever since the early cavemen concluded that a club round the head and the tugging of hair probably wasn’t the most solid of foundations for building a lasting relationship. Yet as displayed by many a mawkish love song that necessitates the urgent need of a puke bucket, affairs of the heart aren’t as easily grasped as one might imagine.

The lugubrious tones and deft lyrical touch of Dan Michaelson, then, are something to be treasured. Formerly of the parish of Absentee – one of the most criminally overlooked yet marvellous outfits this country has produced over the last decade – Michaelson’s chronicles of romance prove that sensitivity in males can mean so much than a sore head the morning after a dozen lagers and a punch up outside the kebab van. Indeed, Michaelson doesn’t so much wear his heart on his sleeve as bleed a sincerity that’s utterly believable and almost unbearably poignant.

The key here is economy. There’s a refreshing directness to Michaelson’s lyrics that irons out any chance of unnecessary ambiguity, and this approach perfectly mirrors the music that fleshes out these bones. Recorded with the minimum of overdubs, Dan Michaelson & the Coastguards’ world of strummed guitars, brushed drums and pedal steel shares a sensibility with Richard Hawley that’s most evident on the pining urges of ‘Love Lends A Hand’.

The bittersweet flavour that runs throughout is rooted in a realism that acknowledges the good times as well as the bad. The self-deprecating humour at the heart of the wry 'Something Awful/Dancing' is tempered by the sheer beauty of 'Dust', an almost unfeasibly beautiful song that succeeds in capturing the very nature and essence of love in as few words as is humanly possible.

Michaelson’s near-intimate relationship with the art of melody remains undiminished and his five-fathoms deep baritone is as wonderfully idiosyncratic as ever as it conveys a romantic worldview rooted in hope that’s in all too short supply at the moment. If you’ve ever felt a pang in your heart or had it warmed by someone close, then this record is for you. And even if you haven’t, you’d do well to let Dan Michaelson & the Coastguards give you a tantalising glimpse of what’s in store.

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