Album Review: Dan Michaelson – First Light

After creating, according to The Telegraph, a “miserabalist masterpiece” with his band The Coastguards (not to be confused with a Japanese pop punk band of the same name!), Dan Michaelson returned with his first solo album since 2011.

Michaleson’s voice is arresting with intense depth and palpable gravel. Careless is on the way to being spoken word under the weight of that vocal tone, but it’s caressed in beautiful strings and sentiment: “love makes you give more than you think you can.”

Sand continues that effect; a masterfully baritone speaking of love, surrounded by luscious strings. The message is that while things can change, sometimes quite catastrophically, but simply being there to hold each other’s hand can be enough to survive, regroup and start again.

Someone Else’s Dream builds on the hypnotic nature of Michaelson’s voice. It reverberates through the depths but has the soothing quality of a lullaby.

Again and again, the string section bursts through, as in Stone. That’s not surprising as the record features eight violins, four violas, two cellos, two double basses and a trombone.

Following an instrumental interlude with Careless Reprise, Old Kisses lyrically evokes Leonard Cohen’s trademark melancholic reflection on fading love. Of course, Cohen’s vocal tone is recalled throughout the low-key, low register record.

By I’ll Never Be Lost, the title track First Light and Don’t Let It Pass, the tenor of the album has become clear, just as the rising sun illuminates the early morning that inspired the record and served as the background to its writing.

The entire piece is unified in tone and has the simultaneously striking and unobtrusive essence of a film score. Michaelson is experienced in that area, having soundtracked the BBC series The Detectorists and the feature-length documentary, Blowin’ Up.

First Light is out now on The state51 Conspiracy.

If you’d like to buy the album and help fund at the same time, click on the album cover below. Standard Amazon price for you and they give me some pennies for my new camera fund 🙂

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