Shamefully this album has been glowering at me for three months, patiently waiting its turn in the queue. Shameful as when I refreshed my memory of the last Dan Michaelson album I heard it truly was one of the better albums of 2013 and the follow up, Distance, has a fair claim to be in the best of lists for this year. It’s similar to its predecessor (Blindspot) but there’s a slight shift in the music, in the main a muted low key Americana sound which just about tops the slurried wash of Blindspot. This reinforces the similarities to Bill Callahan that were evident on the last album but the band that this brings most to mind are Lambchop as the songs slowly unroll with brushed percussion and weeping pedal steel.
The singular point, evident from the start is Michaelson’s extraordinary voice. It permeates the room with its gravity, almost as if he’s next to your ear. Deep but fragile, ready to break down as it dredges emotions from the depths. And it’s the depths of despair that form the lyrics as Michaelson for the most part stands bereft and forsaken as the songs weep. Aside from Burning Hearts which breaks into a trot (although lyrically it’s still pretty dismal) the pace is slow allowing Michaelson plenty of space to wallow magnificently. There’s an elegant gloom to the album from the muted horns on the opening song Evergreen to the glacial piano that leads on the closing song Somewhere before the song glides into an instrumental section that evokes a wintry feel. One for the Christmas stocking surely.