Review Summary: What is this sorrow?
There is something perfectly re-assuring when Dan Mangan makes his entrance on “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Helpful At All,” setting the stunning tone of his third record. Calm, collected, and undeniably poignant, Mangan’s distress radiates through his serene vocals and haunting lyricism, bringing to life the true meaning of folk music. With this in mind, it has been tragic seeing Mangan’s Postcards and Daydreaming
and Nice, Nice, Very Nice
going virtually unnoticed over the past four years, as both of these records demonstrated that Mangan was as good at doing the singer/songwriter thing as just about anyone. Yet if those releases could be at fault for anything, it was the simplicity of a typical folk album that each brought to light, as fine as both were. Mangan was missing something. Something that could spark his excellent, but underappreciated career. So coming into contact with Oh Fortune
’s gorgeous opener, that feeling of reassurance is sure to strike Mangan’s faithful, as that third dimension is revealed.
For those that had a gripe with Mangan’s lack of musical virtuosity, Oh Fortune
features a heavily orchestrated framework that accentuates his vocals and lyricism magnificently. Tracks such as “Post-War Blues” and “Rows of Houses” indicate that Oh Fortune
is very much alive; delivering a much more thrilling listen than we have seen from Dan Mangan. The former track especially strays from the typical open-chords played on an acoustic guitar and is amplified by searing leads, thundering orchestration, and the introduction of horns. “Post-War Blues” is the type of track that would have seemed out of place in Mangan’s library previously, but blends into the release perfectly. The record’s musical underscore however, could very well be its centerpiece, “Starts With Them, Ends With Us,” which is constantly building itself up and coming back down. “Starts With Them, Ends With Us” finally climaxes with a clash of trumpets, percussion, and guitars, which fall into place after Mangan’s utterances of “The cancer is wide and has taken my trust, do what we will and will what we must.”
With the reinforcement of Mangan’s sound, one would assume that his lyricism had suffered as a result, but the Vancouver native has certainly not lost a step in this regard. Oh Fortune
spends a great deal of time dealing with death, something that can easily be related to. Whether it is about the death of someone close, or what is to happen after life as portrayed in “If I Am Dead,” Oh Fortune
conveys Mangan’s grief with flying colors. The record culminates with heart-wrenching closer “Jeopardy,” with Mangan resonating “Where did I go? Where did I go? What is this sorrow? What is this sorrow?”
Predominantly a folk artist on Postcards and Dreaming
and Nice, Nice, Very Nice
, Mangan is maturing as a musician
with Oh Fortune
, bringing an entirely refreshing perspective to his already illustrious career. Incorporating his powerful lyricism and tranquil vocals into an orchestrated and “full” sound, Oh Fortune
is Mangan’s most intriguing record to date. At this point, it isn’t clear that Mangan will be able to come into the focus of a larger audience, but those who haven’t paid attention to Mangan at least to some degree, are the one’s trailing.