This third album from the Canadian singer will chase away the winter chills.
Mike Diver 2011-11-23
Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan has an impressive CV – he’s toured with the likes of The Decemberists and Okkervil River; his second album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, was nominated for the Polaris Prize; and he’s graced festival stages as prestigious as those found at Glastonbury and, stateside, Sasquatch. But this hard work, particularly domestically, is yet to translate into widespread recognition on these shores. Oh Fortune, arriving too late in the year to make the annual best-of lists, is unlikely to change that standing; but this is a delightful collection which could become a late-2011 favourite amongst fans of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and even Mumford & Sons.
His third album presents a fuller sound than its predecessor, Mangan – a beardy 28-year-old with eyes that could tell a thousand tales without him so much as opening his mouth – now confident to let his voice tear away from the alt-folk crowd that he was once a part of. Instead, he leads rallying calls on tracks such as Post War Blues – a close cousin of Mumford’s more boot-stomping fare – and the title-track, which rides gentle Americana undercurrents to a state of completion that could, in a parallel world where quality genuinely equals success, have whole venues singing along to its dipping and soaring vocals. Of the gentler cuts, which do still dominate, Leaves, Trees, Forest is a particular highlight, gorgeous harmonies drifting behind simple but catchy acoustic motifs. Here, Mangan reins in his voice, speaking rather than singing for the most part. Chamber-pop-styled opener About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at All has an air of The Delgados about it – if the Scottish indie legends had developed a penchant for simmering shanties after a Buckfast session too many.
It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to look for, so they say – whoever ‘they’ actually are – and by releasing Oh Fortune in the UK now, some months after it emerged in the US and Canada, has ensured its voice will hardly be heard by music writers and mainstream listeners alike. But it’s a set that does reward investigation, perhaps not with lasting love but certainly first-few-plays impressions which will last into the New Year. If your albums of 2011 have been those by any aforementioned parallels, pick this up to chase away the winter chills.