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Review: Dan Mangan, “Club Meds”

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Let’s be honest here, the world is terrifying.

Ostensibly it is said that life is beautiful and there is such potential for you to have a great time. In truth we are from time to time stricken with anxiety of social interaction or the fear of being let down again and again.

Confidence can be seldom won if you are in constant fear of rejection. You lose trust in the ones you love, in your government, or even yourself. Dejection hits us all at one moment or another. To live, is truly the parity of sink and swim, not one or the other. Why do we keep jumping in?

We all cope somehow, some with hard work, some through detrimental avenues and some through artistic expression. A song, so much like laughter, is the greatest medication to our woes. The artist can often be the healer. Dan Mangan knows it can get tough out there, so he gave you a perfect dose in his fourth studio album “Club Meds.”

A much lauded Canadian musician Mangan has seen a lot of success with his music, with his little buzzed gem of a debut “Postcards & Daydreaming” or his Juno award winning third album “Oh Fortune”, he returns four years later with an insightful album that examines how we, including himself, carry on in such a precarious world filled with such pain and darkness.

Mangan’s musical stylings are an amalgam of folk, Americana and gazerock; perfectly blending the elements into brilliant poise.

His voice is a crooning elixir with unbelievable power behind musings of lovelorn or social commentary with the cadence of a literary scholar. Mangan is an incisive diamond in the rough of his folk inspired contemporaries. “Club Meds” may be topical, but it is an excellent followup to his past work.

Along with Mangan on this album is his longtime backing band Blacksmith, who have to be the best backing band for a vocalist like him, their technical skill is astounding, but technique is rudimentary when the task is to compliment such vocal power, which they do here very well.

Blacksmith and Mangan coalesce into a totally hermetic package. “Vessel” from the album has Blacksmith guitarist Gord Grdina showing off his adroit Jazz prowess with a corybantic solo that somehow blends perfectly with the fusillade of horns. Grdina is a serious player that has a perfect place behind Mangan.

As for Mangan, he captures a lot conflicting emotions in his songs on this album, I feel more so than his previous releases. Now a father, he looks into the abyss that is modern society and takes away some very different ideas, it is reflective in his music.

From the reverb tinged melancholy of “A Dolls House / Pavlovia” to the somber meets reverie of semi-ballad in “XVI”, Mangan is leaving no rock unturned in “Club Meds”, he takes it all in and challenges you to ride along. This album, even in it’s quietest moments, can transfix you with it’s beauty.

Listen to the words in each song, no matter how close you listen you’ll see he isn’t hiding anything. He’s honest and he isn’t here to give sweet nothings.

A songwriter like him doesn’t fit into the mold of a crowd pleaser, but it would be ostentatious to ask him do so. He is just fine with his off-kilter challenge to the listener, take what he has to say or leave it.

From love to social upheaval we are constantly exposed to, a wonderfully humble Mangan takes a lot of themes no matter how risky and mash them up into a collection of songs that ask a much more stimulating question: How do we cope?

There is a wonderment to Mangan that is not in line with the canonical Post-Folk. His music has grandiosity, versatility and is verily unique to it’s core. No matter what the collective opinion is on the mellifluous singer/songwriter in the year of 2015, with a bold album like this, I only want more.

4.5/5

Kieran J. MacIntyre is a voracious music nerd of all genres, bass player and the music editor for M&C Music.


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