Monday, February 23, 2009
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Herohill has a long history with Vancouver’s Dan Mangan although one that started with ulterior motives on our part. When I lived in Vancouver, my wife was a big fan of Brett Dennen and when tickets for his show went on sale we were in Anacortes and missed the sales window. Mangan was opening for Brett, so I thought why not reach out to see if we could get on the list (herohill is not as selfless as you might have thought).
At the end of the day, his management didn’t get back to me until the day after the show so my attempts to scam them failed, but they did send over a copy of his record - Postcards and Dreaming - which became a favorite at our apartment and a must have on any road trip. I was so impressed with Dan's sound that I try to come up with a scientific equation to explain why I thought Dan was going to be huge.
Start with the appeal of Dave Matthew's rough, yet somehow tender voice. Now, quickly subtract all the douche bag antics you associated with DM and scrap the 9-minute jams sessions that go nowhere. Oh, and the violin parts from the odd looking dude, those are gone too. Now add arrangements that draw you in, a presence that makes you listen and an honesty that exudes from the lyrics and makes every song sound like something from your own life. Finally, carry the one, and you are left with Dan and the reasons why the Vancouver singer / songwriter has the potential to explode.
The thing is, it wasn’t until I saw Dan open up for Mark Berube a month or two later that I was convinced that Dan is destined for big things. At the time, I mentioned that when people started singing along to the chorus of Robots, the room was filled with smiles and people rushed towards the merch table. To be honest, I never thought much about it after I left other than it was a cute sing-along about a lonely man that worked well at shows, but for
Well, now it's 2009 - almost 5 years since Dan first released Postcards and Dreaming - and he's finally getting ready to release his follow up record. Most people out of the game for 5 years would long since be forgotten, but Dan's been touring non stop, building his fanbase and really letting his songs develop into full fledged gems. The tracks aren't just snippets, but complete thoughts and maybe to say sorry for making us wait so long, he’s putting out a nice little EP – Roboteering – to get everyone excited.
The lead single, obviously, is Robots, a track that showcases the surprising tenderness of Dan’s gruff vocals, but it's how the song has been fleshed out that makes it impossible to shake from your cranium. The horns and slow build are terrific, as are the smatterings of banjo and harmonies, but it’s the nostalgic feel I get when Dan replicates the sing-along vibe of his live shows with group vocals to the end the song. Honestly, I challenge you to not sing-along as he repeats, “robots need love too. They want to be loved by you.”
The rest of the EP – including the great duet, The Indie Queens Are Waiting - is the perfect introduction to Dan’s skills. Not many people could pull off an insecure ballad about trying to fit in, a reworked demo as a treat for old fans and a spoken word piece and still only scratch the surface of the potential of the full length. I haven’t heard the full record yet, but I have no problem reserving a spot on my Best-of list for the talented Vancouver singer. Maybe that will make up for trying to squeeze him for tickets.