Lord knows where the Coastguards disappeared to. He had them earlier this year, tumbling out low musical rumblings in the tunnels beneath Charing Cross station. He kept them by his side for the first two albums, the devastatingly sad Saltwater and Shakes. But now Dan Michaelson has seemingly left his backing band The Coastguards out at sea. Sudden Fiction is the first album the former singer of alt-rock band Absentee has released in his lone name.
It’s perhaps a shame, then, that beyond the change of personal presentation there is little new to Michaelson’s music. No bad thing, perhaps, given the ever-present melancholy that drives his music and the beautiful instrumentation (that, in fairness, is the best it has yet been). But between such well-practiced sadness and Michaelson’s gravelly Eeyore tones it’s a small shame there is no further development. Everything plays out slow, meaningfully. Sparse piano and a pained guitar affect deeply; nowhere more delicate and, yes, still devastating as tracks like ‘New Ruins’ or ‘Knee Deep’ with its calls of “I’ll follow you… I’ll follow you.”
Still, it’s hard not to appreciate Dan Michaelson for the consistency he is managing. Perhaps if it was a case of diminishing returns we would have cause for dismay. As it stands though, Michaelson releases album after album of beautiful and under-appreciated folk music. For now though, it still seems as though Michaelson himself under-estimates his potential more than anybody else.