Reviews:: Dan Mangan Postcards and Daydreaming

I'm not a math expert, but I'm going to try to come up with an equation that's describes Dan's sound. 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.

What does that all really mean? Well, I have no idea - but I know that even with the vocal similarities of the two artists, I hate the DMB but can't get enough of Dan's full length release - Postcards and Daydreaming (note:: this is the re-release and it includes a nice bonus track Ash Babe). Dan's collection of songs shows a surprising amount of diversity and instrumentation, but the star of the show are his heart felt words. Dan doesn't bother trying to paint pictures using clever words, instead he hits you in the face with emotions and stories that you can relate to. How many other artists write a song that includes the the raw truth "I wish the world would just fuck off, at least then I could be bitter" or "I want to drink till I regret it"?

The record opens with a delicate ballad (Not What You Think It Is), a folky track where Dan's vocals mesh with lovely female harmonies over some guitar and horns. He doesn't waste notes or throw in unnecessary sounds, and that really helps the songs. Unnatural Progression is just Dan and his guitar; and that's all the song needs. He picks up the pace and the thickens up the mix on Above The Headlights, and this is perhaps his most radio friendly track as the generous amount of harmonica and louder vocals would fit into almost any NPR playlist.

While he can pick up the pace, Dan's prefers to operate at a slower tempo, and that is where he is the most successful. The finger picked notes of Journal Of A Narcoleptic dance around the room like the specks of dust left on picture frames and books. It fits the nostalgic, apologetic tone of the song perfectly. The same formula is used on So Much For Everyone; simple picked notes, gentle cymbal work, faint strings and some harmonies to help tell his story. He doesn't need a big hook, because his words are so engaging.

Unlike most singer / songwriters, Dan avoids the all to common lag in the middle and end of a disc and delivers a strong performance from start to finish (even though the extended noise filled outro of Reason To Think Aloud doesn't work as well when it isn't the end of the record), including my favorite track Some Place To Come Home To. Dan's going into the studio soon, and the next release should be something to hear. Check him out at UBC on Sept. 6th @ 12PM.

MP3:: Some Place To Come Home To

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