I first heard of Dan Mangan a few months back when “Road Regrets” was getting some serious airplay on American radio stations and had infiltrated the blogging community. I instantly knew this wasn’t a one off hit and that I needed the check out his back catalogue. Days later at a Horse Feathers gig, fellow Canadian Adam Smith of The Mountains and Trees was unashamedly telling all between songs how this record inspired him to get his guitar out and get creative.
Nice, Nice, Very Nice is the second album from Dan Mangan, following his 2007 debut Postcards & Daydreaming. From start to finish, this album covers all the bases that will appeal to a wide audience – there is something for everyone. I’m going to be bold here and state listening to this album was probably one of the best 45 minutes of 2010 for me.
Opening with the aforementioned “Road Regrets”, a strum of the acoustic guitar slowly builds us up, gently accompanied with first the electric guitar and followed with the bass - a crash of the drums sets us upon our path of Dan’s honest and sincere collection of personal tales and poetic observations.
The title “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” is a short poem by Kurt Vonnegut, which might explain how Dan’s well developed prose has come to be that of a certified wordsmith. On the track “Tina’s Glorious Comeback”, the lines “Sold my soul the devil / For nice penmanship / And now I write real pretty / But I’m starting to regret it” implies Dan’s accomplished use of the English language has perhaps been at the sacrifice at more important aspects of life, such as relationships (“We’re not us / We’re not us”) which in turn only aids to the conviction of his tales.
The album will pull on your heartstrings from time to time. The track “Basket”, for example, is an ode to his late grandfather which almost reduced my girlfriend to tears, with it’s sensitive use of strings and Dan’s strong yet fragile voice recalling his Grandfather’s descent into old age.
I was fortunate enough to see Dan Mangan about a month ago at the Hoxton Bar & Grill where he really bought this album to life. It’s Dan’s live performance that reinforces his charisma and likeability – Dan had almost the entire room singing along to “Robot’s” signature line “Robot’s need love too / They want to be loved by you” for an extended chorus that bought a warm smile to everyone in the room.
I strongly urge everyone to listen to Dan’s accomplishment that is Nice, Nice, Very Nice. The varied and often subtle use of many different instruments on this record is an achievement in itself, as is Dan’s role as a poignant and touching protagonist. I for one thoroughly look forward to his next release, which in my opinion couldn’t come soon enough.
Words: Neil Phillips