Album of the Week: Club Meds by Dan Mangan & Blacksmith makes waves
Dan Mangan & Blacksmith
Arts & Crafts
Since establishing himself in the Canadian music scene, Vancouver's Dan Mangan has more recently started to make waves further afield. After extensively touring his two critically acclaimed solo albums of charming indie folk, the talented singer-songwriter spread his creative wings on the 2011 album Oh Fortune, collaborating with the city's free-jazz community and garnering a Juno award for his troubles.
Club Meds sees Mangan return with the same core of experimental musicians, now known as Blacksmith, and moving further away from his bread-and-butter acoustic strumming. The songs here are deeper and more adventurous, fleshed out with layers of percussive texture and jazz inflections.
There are touches of Wilco and Radiohead, opener Offred beginning with a swathe of electronica before heading off into mild Kid A territory, while the dreamy and atmospheric A Doll's House/Pavlovia evokes the more organic The King of Limbs era.
The experimentation doesn't go as far out as, say, the colourful kitchen-sink cabaret pop of Montreal's Patrick Watson. Mangan's rich earthy vocals remain at the forefront, and are at their gravelly best on Mouthpiece, but Blacksmith have added a more complex dimension to the songcraft.
Strangely, with a full-time backing band, Club Meds feels like Mangan's most personal album to date; warm and relaxed, the lyrics touching on war and politics are given more time and space to breathe. Anthemic lead single Vessel is built around a simple looping piano, while the more intricate arrangements unfold at a natural pace, washing over like a deep tonal ocean. Mangan's folk has just gotten a whole lot darker and this richly rewarding album should soon see him go global.