Dan Mangan: "Oh Fortune" (2011, Arts and Crafts Records)

I've been a bit lax in my music reviews lately. Not because I haven't been listening, but mostly because I've been, well, lazy. But I digress.

Dan Mangan's latest offering has a wonderful little notice in the fine print, which reads "If you acquire it for free, and you enjoy it, please to a live show and bring a friend. If you paid for it, you should still come a show - but know that you are exceptionally wonderful".

How nice. While it has little to do with the album itself, it's something I like to see.

This is new territory for Mangan - it's no longer music built around an acoustic guitar. Gone are the country/folk phrasings of Postcards and Daydreaming, or the horns and radio-friendly indie accessibility of Nice, Nice, Very Nice. This is an album with a heavy dose of strings, organs, and atmospheric omnichord bits. Mangan also takes a stab at the electric guitar this time around, most particularly on "Post War Blues", an album that is about as distinctly "un-Mangan" as I can imagine.

It's also not very good. But it's the only song that I really dislike on the album, so maybe that's something. The other big stab at electric guitar works, "Rows of Houses", is actually really good - probably my favourite track on the album, in fact.

The album opens up with an honest to god waltz with "About as helpful as you can be without being any help at all", and then progresses into a moody piece called "how darwinian". The long-standing Mangan fan is probably going to be a bit confused by the first few tracks - it's not until the fourth track, "if I am dead" that we begin to hear that folksy Mangan-type song we all know and love. And we don't hear something that has any sort of cheer until we get to the fifth track, "Daffodil", which has an old-timey feel I definitely like.

Actually, the album really warms up after "Daffodil", with many great folksy songs that return to Mangan's roots while still being experimental enough that he's not just treading old ground. The title track, "Oh Fortune", is a great example of this, with a train-chugging riff that has an old-time rock and roll sound combined with that west coast indie feel we all love.

In all, it's a moodier version of Mangan. He's always had sad lyrics - this time around, the sounds tend to match those lyrics. Really, it's less rock and roll, and more blues. Less whistling, more wailing. And so on, and so forth. Try listening to the album-ending "Jeopardy" and trying to remain cheerful ("Where did I go?/what is this sorrow? where did I go? what am I doing?")

Bottom line? This isn't nearly as happy as his earlier work, but it's still a work that is absolutely creative and worth listening to. Rather than having you tapping your feet to infectious pop ballads, you'll be sipping coffee and thinking about lost loves and those who have left us. It's an album worth checking out, whether you buy it or find it for free. And in either case, do what the fine print says, and check him out live.

And bring a friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment