Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds

4.5/5

Two-time Juno winner Dan Mangan has returned from a two-year hiatus with his fourth studio album Club Meds. Returning to the studio as a proud father and a matured musician, Mangan retains his folk-based style amongst a wave of experimental collaborators. Detailed with melodic drum patterns, sporadic synthesizers, and a flume of guitars, Club Meds launches Mangan onto the highest rung of his career.

“Offred” immediately constructs the experimental style with looping synths and soft guitar patterns mixed into distortion and effects. Mangan’s rustic vocals fight for attention against the wall of instruments, switching back and forth for center-stage. The repetition of the supporting guitar draws the listener into a trance as the other instruments build for the duration of the song.

Written for the film Hector and the Search for Happiness (which stars Simon Pegg), “Vessel was the first single released, alongside the accompanying music video. Boasting for top spot on the album, the song combines the supporting repetition of experimentation, the musical substance of a band (especially compared to Dan Mangan’s solo work), and sonic diversity, as it tattoos in the line “it takes a village to raise a fool” into the mind of the listener.

Dark intensity sparks the passion of “Mouthpiece”, the third track from Club Meds. Harsh strumming of the acoustic guitar, the never-slowing tempo, mixed with the fiery, angry vocals of Dan Mangan are sewn together by bristly lyrics; the steam continues to rise until the final ghostly chorus.

Dan Mangan reminds his fans of his power and talent with an acoustic guitar on “XVI”. His smooth, yet crisp vocals slam together in slow motion with his poetic writing. Like witnessing a car crash, the shock of the lyrics pull the listener in:  “You’d say: ‘I threw the family under the bus as if I hoped it would crush us like I don’t care’ / I do care”. “You hate the Man / the Man hates you too”.

The intensity of the album then begins to drop, into almost a looping, echoing whisper. “Club Meds” and “Pretty Good Joke” find a comfortable place on the album with passivity and in psychedelic fashion.

“New Skies” brings the album to a close by combining the different characteristics of the previous songs: acoustic passion, deep lyrics, blaring instrumentation and graceful musicality.

Club Meds directs Dan Mangan into a new direction and with the accuracy the North Star.

Stream the album via Exclaim!.ca

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