To the initiated, Dan Mangan returns with his latest album. To the uninitiated, such as myself, the release of Club Meds is an excellent time to get to know the Canadian and his band.
Whilst previous releases from Mangan have been as a solo singer-songwriter, the input of Blacksmith now means that they no longer sit and play in the shadow. Blacksmith is Kenton Loewen (drums), Gordon Grdina (guitar), John Walsh (bass) and often JP Carter (trumpet), Jesse Zubot (violin) and Tyson Naylor (keys).
The first album released as Dan Mangan + Blacksmith is an album that pleases the ears upon first listen. The rewards grow with each progressing listen, to the point where it’s one of those rare beasts – an album you can, and want to, listen to in one sitting.
Opening track Offered starts off with clockwork motion sound effects, and then the “proper” instrumentation hits. A soundscape is built that intrigues with layers of electronics and keys hidden underneath a pulsating mid-pace beat. Mangan’s voice straddles the emotive power of Jimi Goodwin from Doves and the tonality of Interpol’s Paul Banks.
On Mouthpiece the true power of Mangan's voice takes centre stage which, combined with his storytelling lyrics, makes for an astonishing synthesis. Propelled by percussion that flits in and out of prominence and a bass that's jazzy in undertone it's almost breathless in execution.
Perhaps the singlular highlight of Club Meds is Kitsch. Layer upon layer of guitars, electronics build up the song to euphoric heights that many artists will struggle to match. You can listen to it below on the official video taken from YouTube.
The repeated guitar riff, the flowing bass and the heartbeat-like percussion seem to create an organic and mechanical mix that is given heart and life by Mangan’s heartfelt vocals.
Of the album, Mangan writes:
Club Meds is about sedation. Sedation can be chemical, but not exclusively so. There is a great vacation from actuality going on. Maybe there always has been. It seems like everybody else is already at the party and that life is somehow easier or more fun under the fog.
This is readily apparent in the title track, and the social observations are littered throughout. They don’t appear too often, and when they do they aren’t heavy handed.
All in all, Club Meds is one of the albums that you’ll have to make time for. It’s pulsating and powerful, and it will become more so the more you listen to it. It gives back in spades what you yourself invest in time.
Club Meds by Dan Mangan + Blacksmith is released on City Slang on Monday 12th January