Dan Mangan - Nice Nice, Very Nice

Tom Reed 17/11/2010

Rating: 4/5

Canadian Dan Mangan released this record last year in his homeland, and now finds himself spreading his wings across the pond. Signed to Arts & Crafts, the label home to Feist and her Broken Social Scene buddies, Mangan shares some key features with these crafters of high quality skewed pop. Throw in Mangan's weathered, lived-in voice and you have a strong combination of chest-beating passion and fun, energetic songwriting.

Opener Road Regrets does what it says on its title's tin really, but is none the worse for it as it mixes stories of tour van life with pining for people at home. Sold adds some southern-fried country feel to proceedings, with some train-track drums and some cool jazzy bass which has a faintly Gallic feel to it. Et Les Mots Croises may have a Gallic name, but is altogether more downtrodden in mood, showing a good contrast to Mangan's writing.

Penultimate track Basket shares this feel, but ramps up the intensity in its second half, Mangan spitting his words out in a vitriolic stream of consciousness before ending with a pleading whisper. It's a brilliantly performed song that, despite occasionally clunky lyric, stands as a great example of the power that one bloke and a guitar still hold. Robots has a great woozy, sea shanty feel to it that culminates in a ridiculous but fun singalong of “Robots need love too, they want to be loved by you”.

This album is all about contrasts - between the serious and daft, passionate and light hearted. With that in mind, I reckon Mangan could find a perfect gap in the singer-songwriter arena somewhere between Frank Turner and Villagers.