13 Aug Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice Album Review
Mangan’s voice has the gravelly tones and vulnerability of Damien Rice or Conor Oberst, but with a deeper, heavier quality. Most of Mangan’s songs have both gentle and thunderous characteristics. They build from a calming hum to a rousing result. Instead of just accompanying the music after the fact, Mangan’s lyrics work with it to serve the story as a whole and create meaningful layers to his songs.
Mangan puts a simple song together very effectively, expertly adding the little pieces that make them special. Not everyone can pull off an uncomplicated song and make it memorable; it’s certainly not as easy as it seems.
“Baskets” is a striking song about recapturing youth while growing old. As the song progresses, Mangan becomes increasingly angry at the loss of his youth and the music and his vocals engulf the listener: “Won’t you take my cane and hold my hand/ You’re holding on to all I have/ Just a basket full of memories/ And I’m losing more every day it seems.”
“Et Les Mots Croises” (French for “And The Crossword”) is another simple but excellent song about the stereotype that artists need to be sad to create great pieces. Fortunately for him, Mangan has found someone that makes him happy: “All I found was this here one who makes me tea/ Brings the crossword/ So how am I supposed to bring us down?” The sprinkling of horns and strings against an acoustic guitar makes this song, and many of the others, unforgettable.
“Robots” is the catchiest and one of the more complex songs on the album. It builds cleverly from a more reserved start into a bigger sing-along sound. The use of horns as the song builds adds an additional depth to the acoustic guitar melody.
Nice, Nice, Very Nice is an album with depth and layers; it’s something you could slowly peel away for a long time. While it’s mostly acoustic folk-country, there are loads of additional elements that make Mangan’s songs stand out. Along with well composed music, his lyrics tell rich stories which bring additional strength to the songs.