Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune

Dan Mangan's third studio album, Oh Fortune, is a rousing and orchestral delight, without ever becoming indulgent - swells of strings and brass lend energy and emotion where it is needed, but are balanced with simple guitar motifs elsewhere on the disc.

Mangan is Canada's answer to Elbow, at least in terms of anthemic, epic compositions, but is if anything more polished in his delivery. His relative lack of fame in the UK - both compared to his success in Canada, and in general - seems more like a matter of time than a matter of talent.

With Oh Fortune bound to claim a few 'album of the week' accolades, I hope it also claims its fair share of airplay on the nation's radio stations. It is, perhaps, a little mature in tone for the boyband/The X Factor crowd, but there's a plenty sizeable market out there for 'proper' music, and this is that indeed.
Oh Fortune - Dan Mangan
High Points

It's hard (as ever) to pick out a couple of high points among a varied but consistently top-drawer collection of tracks.

From the opening strains of moody strings, to more laid-back, Mumford & Sons-style country folk, these are powerful pieces of musical poetry. The waltz-like opener, About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All, sets a steady pace, laced with emotional energy that continues (literally, with no gap between the tracks) into How Darwinian.

A little later on, Starts With Them, Ends With Us stands out if only as something familiar, bearing the strongest resemblance to a Mumford & Sons track as far as I can tell. Not that it matters - it's just curious to draw parallels from certain tracks, while others are so very different, yet still have that common thread of quality throughout.

And to give you chance to decide for yourself, you can stream and download the whole of Post War Blues using the SoundCloud player below - the perfect opportunity to experience Mangan's epic composition in full, which will surely whet your appetite for the rest of the album.

The Verdict

Here's a tip - if you're gonna buy Oh Fortune as a digital download, get the whole album. Partly because If I Am Dead and Daffodil continue straight on from one another with no silence in between, a musical storyline almost seven minutes in length when combined. But also because each track is an epic tale in itself - not just those two, but the entire album.

If 'Oh Fortune' brings to mind Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna', then some of the album is equally enormous in its level of sound, if a little less gothic. Luscious swells of different groups of the orchestra add unique identity to the tracks, which really go beyond simply being 'songs'.

So, grab the lot and then decide which are your favourites - if you're a playlist-compiler, I think there's genuinely something for every mood here, from more melancholy, reflective dirges to upbeat, energetic anthems to see you through the dark winter-evening commute.

I'm actually finding it hard to level criticism at an album that seems to effortlessly channel the musical spirits of Elbow, Mumford & Sons and, at times, Johnny Cash - if there were an issue to raise, it is purely that the mass-market youth might find Oh Fortune a little out of their range. But I don't want to patronise anyone, so I'll leave that up to each of you to decide...

Final Score: 86%
Oh Fortune - Dan Mangan

No comments:

Post a Comment