"Written, Performed, Recorded, Mixed and Produced by Michael J Sheehy" go the socially-distanced credits on Michael J Sheehy's new album, Distance Is The Soul of Beauty. It's a record that might just be one of lockdown's most perfect creations: as intimate and stark a reflection of the period we're living in as Springsteen's Nebraska was of the early 80s.
Six weeks into lockdown and struggling to complete a more ambitious record he'd been working on for years, Sheehy – formerly of Dream City Film Club, United Sounds of Joy and, more recently, blues rockers Miraculous Mule – decided to change tack.
"The Great Pause gave me the impetus to try something different," he says. "It felt like all bets were off, so I decided to shelve the record I’d been agonising over and do something simple, stripped back and direct."
Like Mark Lanegan taking a run at The Velvet Underground’s eponymous 3rd album, or Tindersticks jamming with American Music Club, or late-period Johnny Cash crooning in a broom cupboard, Distance Is The Soul of Beauty, is not a riff-driven party-starter – but it is a profound and touching response to these dark times.
"They are late night recordings," says Sheehy, "quietly sung and played so as not to disturb my sleeping wife and child. I’ve chosen songs that feel intimate and mostly gentle."
The album is out on 2 October, but until then there's a video for the song Judas Hour created by British born, Serbian-based visual artist Grebo Gray, who shot and animated over 600 photographs to create a suitably macabre piece of work.
Pre-order the album here via Sheehy's Bandcamppage.