Michael the Blind Are's & Els

Michael the Blind Are's & Els
Let's get this over with: Michael Levasseur isn't blind. He doesn't have the best vision, but he's not blind. And these days, Michael the Blind isn't just him. While his first three albums were solo efforts, this time around he's recruited a band to back him up, which includes his wife on Autoharp. It's a good thing too because the quieter moments of Are's & Els are the least effective. This is due in part to his voice, which isn't powerful enough to carry a song on its own, but also because when the whole band jump onboard there's a wonderfully satisfying cacophony that adds heft to his words. He hasn't completely turned his back on his earlier folky days and most of the songs still retain that classic singer-songwriter feel, even though there's plenty of the raggedness that shows up on the rowdier Bright Eyes songs. While this is definitely a step in the right direction, Are's & Els needs less preciousness and more individuality to stand out in an already crowded niche. (Alder Street)