Band of the Day

2012.02.01

Dan Mangan

A Canadian troubadour adds ambitious instrumentation to his compelling folk sound
I want to drink 'till I regret it, melt ya down into something that I can take around in my pocket.
lyrics from Ash Babe

Dan Mangan is a singer-songwriter based in Vancouver, Canada. Originally from Smithers, British Columbia, a remote town near the center of British Columbia, Mangan grew up on his parents collections of music from the 60s and 70s. Mangan began writing his own songs at an early age, establishing his folk style. He wrote his first album at the age of 20 while studying at the University of British Columbia which followed with his second album, Postcards & Daydreaming in 2005. Mangan followed that with Nice, Nice, Very Nice in 2009, which helped Mangan gain further attention, being shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. He released his fourth full-length album Oh, Fortune In September 2011. Mangan has toured extensively in support of the album, including a current tour of Europe.

Dan Mangan didn't start to get the attention he deserved until a good six years after he wrote his debut album, while studying at the University of British Columbia. But it was just a matter of time until his homespun, sandpaper voice and emotive songwriting captured attention. The Canadian troubadour has stuck to his guns over the years--heartfelt acoustic folk music--but his newest effort Oh, Fortune takes that nucleus, and expands it with rock textures and ambitious instrumentation. “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” sounds almost like a cheery sea-shanty with its drunken guitar shuffle and string section swirling about like an optimistic hurricane.

On “Post-War Blues,” Mangan departs from his singer-songwriter safety zone for rock and roll -and its one of the strongest tracks on the album. The track clocks in at a heart pounding 160 beats per minute of thumping bass drum while Mangan's deep, sugared gravel of a voice floats commandingly over the sprinting electric guitar and grand strings. Title track “Oh Fortune” sees Mangan returning to to his folk roots as he wearily sings “Oh fortune/bring fortune to spare/Time's passing/We're worsening for wear” over steady acoustic guitar. He shows the maturity and ambition of the album in the chorus as it rises to a crescendo of electric guitar, atmospheric strings and other instruments and Mangan's emphatic vocals. “Jeopardy” dials things back, just quiet guitar and Mangan's engaging lyrics, later complemented by a rich horn section.

Mangan shows he's capable of highlighting his strengths – honest songwriting, an unusually striking voice, and adding layers of complexity to augment those core skills, never distracting from them.