Articles tagged with Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan – “About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at All”

Dan Mangan
Dan Mangan‘s “About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at All” is a masterwork in juxtaposition. It begins with a menacing, noise-soaked piano drone before giving way to a glorious, almost comically cheery orchestral waltz. From there, the husky-voiced Vancouverite sings about self-immolation and man-eating sharks before rounding things out with an acoustic verse.

It doesn’t have a world-conquering hook like “Robots,” but it’s the best song he’s ever released.

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Dan Mangan – “Rows of Houses”

Dan Mangan
Vancouver’s golden boy Dan Mangan released Oh Fortune last week, and this third album is by far his best work. And while I wish the album’s next single (after the title track) was its obvious standout, “About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at All,” we’ll have to settle with a video for the also-stellar “Rows of Houses” instead.

This one is louder than anything he’s done before, with heavily distorted guitars and pounding drums. If this was the first song you heard by Dan, you’d probably assume he was a Constantines-loving rocker. The best bit comes during the wordless gang vocal breaks, when Dan’s throaty roar cuts through the mix as the song transitions back into the verse.

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When I am buried in the ground

Attention fans: Dan Mangan's new plan
When I interviewed Dan Mangan for Exclaim! a few months back, he promised that his new album, Oh Fortune, would be more experimental and noisy than 2009′s Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

The title track, however, isn’t much of a departure. “Oh Fortune” sounds more or less like Mangan’s past work, expect for the explosive drums, which are placed jarringly high in the mix. Get it below, and read my preview of Oh Fortune here.

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Them’s the breaks

Road Regret #1: not splurging for a windshield
In the world of Canadian singer-songwriters, everything is coming up Dan Mangan. I recently reviewed his sold-out performances at the Vogue Theatre for Exclaim!, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it was one of the best local shows I’ve ever seen. The Vogue went bananas. For folk music!

Here’s “Road Regrets,” an acoustic rocker about the struggles faced by touring musicians. With all of the success he’s had over the past few months, I’m guessing those struggles have gotten a little easier. The song was released on last year’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

MP3: “Road Regrets”
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Robots need love, still

Dan Mangan
Dan Mangan has already released the song “Robots” twice this year: first as the sort-of title track of the Roboteering EP, and then again as song two on the full-length Nice, Nice, Very Nice. For those that missed it on the first two go-arounds, the Vancouver singer-songwriter has just issued a video of song.

Fittingly, given how insanely catchy the song is, the video for “Robots” is one of the most memorable of the year. In it, Dan and his yellow-clad posse face off against a purple gang, led by Said the Whale‘s Ben Worcester. It looks like there might be a ’50s-style throwdown (Greasers vs. Socs!), but instead the two groups channel their rivalry into a heated battle between two toy robots. As the euphoric “Robots need love too” coda kicks in, the video takes an unexpected twist for a hilarious finale, so be sure to watch the whole thing. Also keep an eye out for Vancouver musicians Tyler Bancroft (Said the Whale), Zachary Gray (the Zolas) and Laura Smith, all of whom make cameos in the clip.

mp3: “Robots”

Nice, Nice, Very Nice is out now via File Under: Music.
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A basket full of memories

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice
Earlier this year, Dan Mangan released Roboteering EP, which previewed of material from his latest album. These new songs, and especially the single “Robots,” were a massive leap forwards for the Vancouver singer-songwriter: the lyrics were catchy (“Robots need love too”), the melodies were hummable, and arrangements were beefed up with keys, banjos, group vocals and even a triumphant horn section.

mp3: “Robots”

On the full-length album—Nice, Nice, Very Nice, which comes out this week—most of the first half is similarly ornate. Opener “Road Regrets” describes the pitfalls of life on the road, its densely layered acoustic guitars accompanied by chiming electric leads and thundering drum rolls. “Fair Vernona” is even grander, beginning with a hypnotic drum-and-bass groove and backedmasked guitars before swelling to a glorious climax of rising horns and sweeping strings.

The second half of the album is less flashy, mainly comprised of sparse ballads that emphasize Dan’s nimble fingerpicking and gruff, soothing voice. These songs are no less memorable than the high-production numbers, evoking the intimacy of Dan’s one-man live shows. “Basket” is a stunning ballad about growing old—a well covered topic, but the spine-tingling strings and Dan’s ragged growl make it sound like a revelation. “Won’t you take my cane and hold my hand / You’re holding onto all I have / Just a basket full of memories,” he sings during the song’s heart-stopping climax. It’s a staggering moment, one which ought to give a further boost to Dan’s already expanding fanbase.

Nice, Nice, Very Nice is out now via File Under: Music.
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Robots need love too

It’s an old adage: you have your whole life to write your first album and six months to write your second. Except in the case of Dan Mangan, that’s not strictly true. His first album, Postcards and Daydreaming, came out in 2005, meaning that he’s taken four years to produce the follow-up, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, which will be released in August. In preparation for the release of the full-length, Dan released Roboteering on March 10th, a teaser EP featuring three tracks from the upcoming album, plus two outtakes.

The core of Dan’s sound remains the same as it ever was, with bittersweet acoustic folk songs that showcase his gruff baritone voice. But Roboteering takes that familiar sound and improves upon it in every conceivable way: the songwriting is better, the production is richer, and the arrangements are more diverse. Best of all is the sort-of title track, “Robots.” It’s the pop single Postcards and Daydreaming never had, with a lush instrumental arrangement (including slide guitar, banjo, and piano) to support the song’s upbeat acoustic guitar-and-drums groove. The lyrics glorify emotional detachment, but Dan offers a twist in song’s repeated coda: “Robots need love too / They want to be loved by you.” It’s an absolutely massive hook, and ends in a big group sing-along replete with handclaps and crescendoing trumpets.

mp3: “Robots”

The other songs on the collection are more subtle than “Robots,” but no less memorable. “The Indie Queens Are Waiting” is a percussion-less ballad with harmonies sung by Veda Hille, whose poignant vocal performance humanizes the song’s title characters (the cooler-than-thou “indie queens”). “Sold” is the simplest in terms of production, but its rootsy two-step outstrips anything off Postcards and Daydreaming in terms of sheer energy. The EP-only songs are a nice addition to the collection, but their stark minimalism makes it easy to see why Dan chose to leave them off the full-length. The closing track, “Tragic Tun of Events/Move Pen Move,” is especially sombre, a nine-minute music/poetry collaboration with Shane Koyczan.

It may have taken Dan four years to write his second album, but Roboteering shows that the time was well spent. There’s just one problem—thanks to this teaser, the wait for Nice, Nice, Very Nice is going to seem that much longer. The EP is out now via File Under: Music, with the LP following in August.
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