The Dan Mangan of Oh Fortune is quite different from the Dan Mangan of Nice, Nice, Very Nice. He now has more than an acoustic guitar- much more. He’s now got a full backing band. The result? A much denser and more challenging sound and a very worthy successor to an album beloved by Canadians everywhere.
Mangan has definitely evolved between 2009 and now, a time which has seen him reach major success- he’s now signed to Arts & Crafts, probably the most respected indie label in the country. While Nice, Nice, Very Nice could be easily put into the “folk” label, Oh Fortune defies easy categorization.The sound almost changes from song to song.
The opener is the verbosely-titled “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All.” The sound may surprise fans- it’s almost a completely orchestral band backing Mangan. The sound moves like a ballroom waltz, and eventually builds up momentum to allow Mangan to show off his powerful bellow.
It then moves onto “How Darwinian” (fitting, considering Mangan’s “evolution”) which hints that there is a denser sound to be heard here. The song is much more rock, with distortion-filled electric guitars and fuzzy-sounding drums. Following that is “Post-War Blues” which is undoubtedly one of the best of the album. It’s a much more upbeat song that starts off with Mangan singing “Let’s start a war for the kids.” The song reaches its climax (several times) with an insanely powerful electric guitar solo.
The album has many highlights, and going in-depth on every single track might ruin the magic. However I will mention a few more tracks.
“Leaves, Trees, Forest” is an almost zen-like affair whose rhythm sounds tropical. It’s a catchy tune and contains the emotional line “I know there is hope but I can’t look for it.” The album draws to a close with “Jeopardy,” a five-minute song composed almost entirely of questions. It ends with a horn solo.
Fans will be happy to know that Mangan’s songwriting wit hasn’t diminished, such as the line “The hills are alive with the sounds in your head” from the great track “Starts With Them, Ends With Us.”
As well, Mangan seems to have a preoccupation with death, most obviously in the tracks “If I Am Dead” and “Regarding Death and Dying.” Even in the track “Oh Fortune” Mangan sings “Please be merry/When I am buried in the ground.” The semi-grimness seems somewhat at odds with the album’s title. It’s this juxtaposition that makes the album as a whole so interesting to thnk about.
One thing is clear- those looking for a repeat of Nice, Nice, Very Nice will not find it here. What they will hopefully find instead is a much more confident Dan Mangan and a rich collection of songs. Look out for Polaris 2012.
Oh Fortune is officially out today on iTunes and all kinds of other places.
Top Tracks: “Post-War Blues”; “Leaves, Trees, Forest”; “Jeopardy”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*