Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards at the Slaughtered Lamb
Not much of Absentee’s upbeat indie stylings have made it into Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards, but thankfully Michaelson’s take on country-inspired folk (or possibly folk-inspired country) is just as refreshing as anything he’s done before. In the intimate basement of the Slaughtered Lamb, there’s a five-piece ready to take their audience on a journey to the heart of heartbreak.
Michaelson himself is a frontman from a different time. He radiates a well-practiced kind of cool, to the point where he almost becomes a caricature, looking like a version of Gary Oldman (had his life taken a slightly different route). He mumbles endearingly, although not altogether soberly, between tracks, with only the odd hesitant remark betraying any kind of nervousness.
The singer’s croaking vocals are as distinctive, though not necessarily distinct, as ever. His voice has similarities with fellow grumblers Nick Cave and Shane McGowan, but it blends into the arrangements, providing just another comforting piece of the cohesive whole.
With the Coastguards, this is a five-piece displaying the full spectrum of facial hair, performing track after track of interesting, mellow folk music. There’s a lot of guitar work in the band’s makeup, but for the most part the mixture of bass, electric, pedal steel and good old-fashioned acoustic guitar is used effectively to create a warm wall of sound that’s easy to pull apart to its component pieces.
Anyone who’s listened to last month’s Distance will be aware of the kind of heartbreak that Michaelson injects into his songwriting. There’s no self pity, nor obscuring, indulgent metaphor, but rather a lyrical examination of the sadness caused by fresh absence. When Michaelson tells the audience that next they’re going to play a heartbreaking song, “No shit!” is the timely response. Fans know what they’re in for as all the songs discuss heartbreak of one kind or another.
Dan Michaelson’s sound has matured plenty since his start in the music industry, developing into a satisfying blend of melancholy lyrics and comforting arrangements. An intimate venue like the Slaughtered Lamb is a fine place to witness the practised performer and his talented bandmates firsthand, just make sure to prepare your heartstrings.
Joe Manners Lewis
For further information about Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards visit here.
Watch the video for Burning Hearts here: