HEAR THIS: Michael The Blind

July 30. 2012 | By Neha Kulsh

Monikers have long functioned as shorthand for historical figures (Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible) but fanciful nicknames have also been studding our browsers and playlists lately. Now unlike the faux-cartoony monikers of OFWGKTA (Tyler the Creator, Syd Tha Kid), Portland singer/songwriter Michael Levasseur has opted for a more elegiac stage name: Michael The Blind.

Levasseur, a veteran acoustic performer (who is not blind, just nearsighted with glasses) has spent several years traversing both coasts, from Boston to Portland, crooning at cozy venues and quietly compiling a catalog of three solo albums. While he’s accustomed to having a skeletal acoustic line compliment his high-pitched Leonard Cohen quakes, Levasseur’s recently released Are’s & Els is his debut collaboration with a full band—who have mercifully bulked up the wounded nightingale frailty of his voice. As a result, the quartet is a lot rowdier than you might have expected, and every track marks a foray into a bluegrassy, violin-streaked reverie.

Together, they’re top-notch purveyors of buoyant folk-rock ballads and they’ve nailed a tricky lyrical balance: being optimistic about pessimism. These lines from “Another Circle of Fifths” sum it up the best: “I want to quit, but every time I’m at the end of my rope, I find there’s another rope.”

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