REVIEW: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”

Dan Mangan / Oh Fortune / Arts & Crafts

British Columbia singer-songwriter Dan Mangan is a popular fellow in Canadian independent music today. His 2009 sophomore album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice – which was shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris Prize – featured collaborations with Justin Rutledge, Hannah Georgas and members of Said The Whale and Elliott Brood. The reason for all those contributors is because up until this album, Mangan hasn’t had a proper band to tour with or to play alongside in the studio. That’s changed on Oh Fortune, but he’s still not short on guests as this time extra resonance is provided by a full orchestra. The result is a new group of recordings packed with shimmering depth and sweeping emotions.

On “Post-War Blues”, choral vocals and jubilant electric guitar riffs become as natural as part of Mangan’s repertoire as descriptive poetics and hammering acoustic strumming. On “About As Helpful As You Can Be…”, listeners are taken from an intimate standstill to a joyful waltz and back again as drums, strings and woodwinds enter and exit the mix, playing off the feeling in Mangan’s expressive timbre. It’s the sort of structure that works well with Mangan’s lyrical stylings, reminiscent of Stars or Okkervil River and one that’s used in other songs including the folksy title track and atmospheric “Leaves, Trees, Forest”. The topic of death is wrestled with in several of the more somber tracks on Oh Fortune with the thoughtful intonations of the supporting cast subtly lending weight to the singer’s croon on “If I Am Dead” and “Regarding Death And Dying”. If these songs sometimes sound overwrought with emotion, they still work as tender interludes between the more flowing, upbeat numbers.

Download: “Post-War Blues”, “About As Helpful..”

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