Tuesday, July 28, 2009
It’s easy to forget that Vancouver native Dan Mangan has been touring most of the last four years on the strength of a single EP and LP. That’s because, no matter how much I enjoyed Postcards and Dreaming, it always seemed to be just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Dan’s potential. When you’d be lucky enough to see him live, he’d introduce a new tune or a new arrangement to an old classic, and undoubtedly those in attendance would leave discussing the next Mangan record and how the well traveled songwriter would finally have the catalog to convert the masses.
When the Roboteering EP (review) came out earlier this year, Mangan offered the perfect amuse bouche to start us salivating. Packaging three of the records most catchy tunes - Robots (which might just be the song of the year), the insecurity that dominates The Indie Queens are Waiting (a ballad about trying to fit in) and the whimsical, ramshackle style of Sold - he got everyone excited about Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Throw in the fact the lead single, Road Regrets, is a road trip anthem that crescendos for the opening four minutes of the record and you can see why Dan had people talking.
But Nice, Nice, Very Nice is more that catchy sing-alongs and ear pleasing guitar. Exposing a soul partially broken down by the relentless touring and the loneliness of the road, you are struck by the maturity and heart of the young singer. Fair Verona resists the urge to run, and lets Mangan play with bolder arrangements (horns, picked strings). The song about his girlfriend - You Silly Git - almost feels like an Ohbijou cover and shows a man happy for what he has instead of fixating on what could be. The heavy heart of Pine for Cedars is another heavy dose of melancholic beauty that reveals Dan’s soul to anyone willing to listen and lets us all know that another day away from all you love might not be the dream life we often assume musicians live.
But at the end of the day, it’s the honesty of Nice, Nice, Very Nice that wins you over. You can’t help but think Dan writes what he knows and plays music with and for his friends. Any Vancouver music lover will appreciate Tina’s Glorious Comeback (“playing at the Railway with another emo band”), but for me it’s how well Dan incorporates the musical relationships he’s formed over the years into these songs. Whether it’s the support of Veda Hille, the vocal interplay and dexterity he and Mark Berube demonstrate on Some People or just the willing contributions from some of Canada’s biggest names in the indie scene (Said the Whale, Justin Rutledge, Mother Mother and Elliott Brood), everyone seemed happy to help Dan get his vision recorded and out to the public.
Unfortunately for Dan, the heartache of toruing is one he'll have to get used to quickly. The Vancouver native admits he does, “like the road, but I’d be better at home”, but once Nice, Nice Very Nice is embraced by the masses, Dan will be even busier boarding planes and filing into vans, sound checking, playing shows and missing the comforts of home. Considering this is a man I once saw win over a hockey crowd simply by singing the National anthem, it’s hard to believe that this new collection of stellar songs won't help him leave each tour stop with countless new fans in his corner.
MP3:: Dan Mangan - Road Regrets