Through roping in his touring pals officially this time around (as ‘Blacksmith’), with ‘Club Meds’, Canadian troubadour Dan Mangan has produced an expansive and assured record. Strings, brass and even woodwind make an appearance alongside Mangan’s piano and – of course – acoustic guitar, and (mostly) combine with disconcerting ease; musically, this is one dark album.
It’s miserable from the outset; “I give in,” Mangan sighs on stormy opener, ‘Offred’. Doom and gloom permeates all but snippets of the final three tracks (‘Club Meds’, ‘Pretty Good Joke’, ‘New Skies’) and even one of those begins “everybody’s dying”.
‘Club Meds’ is precise, mature and brooding, and despite the tendency to layer noises and experiment – most notably on the largely forgettable ‘War Spoils’ – is at its best when closer to Mangan’s folk-based home; ‘A Doll’s House Pavlovia’ is hypnotic, ‘XVI’ simple, yet gorgeously sad.