Today sees the release of Memory, the sixth album (and third in a trilogy) by Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards.
The record closes the three-album cycle which began with Blindspot and continued with 2014's Distance, both cementing Michaelson's place as a writer of songs which both heartbreak and uplift in equal measure. It's voice that does it, I reckon. It reassures like solid wood or the peaty, antiseptic smoke of a good single malt - and the players do their part too. Joing the Coastguards (Henry Spenner, Laurie Earle and Horse) this time are Romeo Stodart and Johnny Flynn, once again providing a cracked and sumptuous backing.
On Memory, Michaelson probes recollections and how the way we remember, and the influence of the world and the people around us, causes us to rewrite our own histories. Michaelson explains “I've recorded moments that were once raw, important or significant but now have layers and layers of memory overlapping and are unrealistic. I want to keep trying to pin down a moment before it's lost".
We're streaming Memory below, and once you press play read on for Michaelson's guide to the album itself.
"The last song written for the album, I wrote this around the line 'The tide pulls me near just to break at your feet'... It's about the difference between how you feel and the sometimes opposing actions or reactions, how they can be at odds... but you're drawn back to the core with a certain inevitability, musically I tried to echo that by moving from minimal piano and voice to using every instrument on the album for the instrumental sections... a rush of sound that drowns the voice. I thought it was quite romantic but I’ve heard reports that it’s a touch depressing."
"Exaggerating my tendency to forget every significant moment within hours of its occurrence and gradually make up a new version of the truth, I imagined myself as an older man watching my history crumble, and so I write a letter to Memory… Cursing its broken promises and pointing to its failure to record."
"I tried to imagine the hardest place to find a missing piece, I decided the ocean would be a tough place to find fragments. The constant shifting of the seabed that erases the areas mapped, moving stones and sand, erasing prints and clues. I hope that the instruments break and recede like storm driven waves, but I can't be sure they do."
"'I felt the words of a thousand lost birds trip from my tongue before falling, each feather that lay in the mud and the rain was just seconds from meeting their calling.' I wanted this to have an almost spoken word quality, the narrator walks me through hopelessness and uncertainly to eventual redemption and optimism. I though it best to try to be positive at some point.
"I hoped musically, this would make the kind of skewed logic that dreams have, where correctness and truth give way to accepting something other… The cellos and strings turn a blind eye to sensible order in favour of random movements that I think make sense only within the limits of the song."
No Other Way
"Two people walk the world to find each other, we've all done it."
Half the Reason
"This began as a country standard but I wanted to get as far from that as I could with this record, so reduced it almost entirely to strings and horns that slowly shift between chords, almost like a tuneful snore, or a record player at the bottom of a well. The story is reflective, questioning the haunted memories and pitting them against the facts of the moment."