Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune
Dan Mangan’s production values seem to have increased with his popularity, not just in quality but in scope. Oh Fortune has an epic feel to it that was lacking in Mangan’s previous efforts, the intimate debut Postcards & Daydreaming, and the understated, Polaris-nominated Nice, Nice, Very Nice. From the sweeping strings on the album’s opening track, ‘About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All’ to the staccato bursts of acoustic guitar on the rousing foot-thumper ‘Post-War Blues,’ everything on Oh Fortune feels a whole lot bigger.
The distorted drums on ‘How Darwinian,’ the melancholy whistling on ‘If I Am Dead,’ and the distant echo of the vocals on ‘Leaves, Trees, Forest’ show a progression in Mangan’s capabilities as a songwriter. The slightly processed crooning on ‘Daffodil’ gives the song a nostalgic feeling that prevents it from becoming just another sorrowful acoustic number. ‘Regarding Death And Dying’ could easily have become a Bon Iver rip off in lesser hands, but Mangan makes its heartfelt aimlessness unique. ‘Post-War Blues’ is easily Oh Fortune‘s best song, similar to the slow-build-then-bust-loose of ‘Robots’ on Nice, and a thematic spin-off of Postcard‘s ‘Unnatural Progression.’ Coming in a close second is another striking balance of quiet and loud, ‘Rows of Houses.’
Mangan’s voice is solid as always, soulful or aggressive depending on the song, and his lyrics have the same narrative style showcased on his earlier albums. There’s a grab bag of distinctive elements that blend together seamlessly on Oh Fortune, but if a complaint can be made, it’s that Mangan isn’t experimental enough. Not that every artist needs to make the leap between The Bends and OK Computer, but it would be nice to get a real sock-displacing, head-turning, musical exclamation point from Mangan. He’s capable of it. In the meantime we have to settle for simply being entertained and impressed by the considerable talent we’ve already grown accustomed to.
User Reviews and CommentsLog In or Register to Rate Albums
Tell us why this album is great or sucks ass, or correct the reviewer. If you write enough quality reviews you may find yourself on the editorial staff.
Reviews have to be over 100 words, shorter ones are classed as comments.
on 2011-10-17 tosnob Said:
I'll go out on a limb and say that Dan Mangan's new album Oh Fortune is one of the most anticipated Canadian indie releases of 2011. The buzz around the BC-native has been constantly growing over the past couple of years, to the point of almost hysteria.
So the question is whether the album, out September 27th, lives up to the expectations.
Fans will be happy with the structure of these songs. Many, such as the opener with the mouthful title, and "How Darwinian" which it seamlessly flows into, are meticulously appointed orchestral pop numbers.
Mangan's grand statement this time is "Post-War Blues". It begins as a hot indie rock number before building into something with incredible gravitas. He does something similar with "Start With Them, End With Us", which moves from singer-songwriter territory into a massive horn explosion. The horns return for the glorious album closer "Jeopardy".
There's something missing from the album though. No, there are no lyrics as immediately as endearing as those of "Robots", but that's too simple an explanation. It feels almost as those Mangan is trying too hard to be perfect with these songs. The natural charm that seemed to come so easily for him on Nice, Nice, Very Nice isn't obvious here. Those little quirks have been swept away, leaving a solid, but far less lovable album behind.
Oh Fortune is not the masterpiece of Canadian music that many fans and critics were hoping for from Mangan. It is, however, a solid effort, enjoyable from front to back.