Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Release Date 09/08/2009
By Sophie Parkes

Gracenotes only gives you one option – Nice, Nice, Very Nice is folk it solemnly declares. But don’t let that mislead you, as it most certainly isn’t. Acoustic singer-songwriter… OK, so those are misnomers too.

Whatever it is or whatever it isn’t, Dan Mangan’s got an earnest voice, wrapping his vocals around decisive lyrics – these aren’t words written down in haste in his mobile phone via a quick google for the rhyming dictionary. This is deliberation, erasing, rewrite.  

But don’t think for a second that this is the bleak, mundane musings of another wannabe troubadour. The arrangements are too nice, too thoughtful, for that. Take the string swells and pizzicato puckers on ‘You Silly Git’. It might only be simple, with its jogging snare brushes underneath, but it demonstrates care and a love of simplicity over all-too-frequent blandness.

Second track, ‘Robots’, could be on the Juno soundtrack: quirky observations and moving metaphors culminating in a handclap refrain and a brass ensemble chorus.

Occasionally, Dan Mangan finds himself in Jack Johnson territory, with his easy-on-the-ear vocals and purposefully understated ambience.

Then sometimes it’s full on Arcade Fire cavorting with The National in the war on texture.

It’s not going to turn the music world upside down, but then there are quite a lot of us who don’t really look for that in a record any more. Sometimes, all you need is a few metaphors you wouldn’t have come up with yourself, and willing brass and string sections.

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