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Album Review: Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune

Dan Mangan’s eleven-track Oh Fortune, his third album, delivers with a much darker current than his previous work

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By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Date Posted: October 10, 2011
Print Edition: October 5, 2011

Dan Mangan’s eleven-track Oh Fortune, is his follow-up to the sophomore album Nice, Nice, Very Nice. But this time he delivers with a much darker current that courses throughout the album.

It may be just this season, but the album resonates with a feeling that would normally not exist as strongly unless we are in such dreary, rain-drenched days. As I look out into the grey skies that are dropping an endless amount, I cannot help but feel his passion while listening to each track.

I was lucky enough to have my first experience with Mangan be a live show, and there is nothing like seeing him live. It was at the 2010 ShoreFest concert series on English Bay, shortly before the Celebration of Lights had filled the sky; but it was the second time that I saw him perform, at this past summer’s Vancouver Live 125 event, that I was first exposed to Oh Fortune.

It takes a full listen or two of his latest album before the expectation that we would hear more songs similar to “Robots” or “Road Regrets” can be let go. But once you accept that Mangan has grown more introspective on this album, than that’s when it really shines.

It works not just for Mangan, but for the listener as well. The album lends itself well to those moments of lucid thought – those moments where we all begin to think about our lives. And I would say that this is his greatest achievement as an artist, only proven more so by this release.

The two opening tracks, “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” and “How Darwinian,” showcase his transition into a different time in his life and the uncertainty of what that means.
“Post-War Blues” deals with separation, but has some pure indie pop tracks underneath, upon which he covers with his typical roaring style.

Next is “If I Am Dead” which settles things back down again with a very dark subject matter, as the title suggests. “Daffodil” follows and carries on with that slow, quiet, style, but it’s offering the more optimistic outlook of love. Then, “Starts With Us, Ends With Them” comes on next to pick the pace up.

However, the next track, “Oh Fortune,” really gives a bit of relief with its lighter background vocals, drums, and tempo, though it still continues to express a sense of desperation: “Enough. / Lord let those skies open up. / Powers that be forsaken me.”

“Leaves, Trees, Forests” offers more tranquility than the rest, but if given only one listen, it is perhaps the most forgettable song. It has a unique and almost airy quality to it that lifts the entire album up.

Then “Rows of Houses,” which will most likely be a single, injects some upbeat tempo into the mix. It is then followed by another song, which touches on what eventually happens to all of us after we have lived our modern day lives, in “Regarding Death and Dying.”

The very last song, “Jeopardy,” is what I would call an anthem of questions. Every verse is an inquiry into an existence, and is by far my own personal favourite.

Some may not enjoy the new album for its low key sound, but there is no doubt his album is about looking for the truth in life and maybe finding answers and it has become a great listen, especially while it rains. However, it does leave the listener to wonder what brought him to such dark subject matter. Mangan has put away the robots and has instead taken a decidedly more grownup perspective. But robots do in fact, eventually, need love, too.

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