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For those of you who haven’t heard of the incredibly talented Dan Mangan- you’re truly missing out. The Canadian artist, who describes himself as ‘a mere fresh faced folk singer’ on his website, is teetering on the brink of worldly exposure.
It has certainly been a promising year for Mangan. Not only did he make an appearance at Glastonbury, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Kate and William) have been particularly impressed with his music. During the couple’s first joint overseas tour to Canada, Kate and William joined millions at a Canada Day celebration in Ottawa, in which Mangan, along with other artists performed. Mangan’s previous album ‘Nice, Nice, Very Nice’, saw him shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize (the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize, but with better bands), as well as win iTunes album of the year in the singer/songwriter category. Not only is it his experimental sounds and unusual, raspy voice, but also the ways in which he has demanded attention through his political agendas that are intertwined throughout his songs.
Outside of his music, Mangan’s prominent use of YouTube has enabled him to communicate to fans as well as help encourage an understanding in regard to the deeper meaning in his lyrics. Mangan is recognised for his political perspective, as well as his ability to communicate his messages through his music. A recent posting from ‘ChangeVancouver’, features Mangan discussing the vote and the broader cultural scene in Vancouver, to which he defiantly argues that ‘without an artistic culture your kids are going to be boring’. He demonstrates a bold passion an active artistic culture and this shows through his music. As Mangan uses his growing fame to advertise these issues, it really couldn’t be said any clearer, or at a more critical time politically, as universities face major cuts to the government funding of their arts departments.
Some of the tracks on Mangan’s new album remain consistent with this political thread. A particular favourite is the track ‘Post-War Blues’, which cleverly combines a catchy soundtrack with Mangans thought provoking vocal; getting the listener to engage with the issue he sings about. The lyrics open with ‘Let’s start a War for the kids’ (i.e. let’s fight for a better future and demonstrate something to be proud of) and continues to suggest that our younger culture needs to be supplied a real reason to ‘unite’ with each other. Mangan continues to discuss the ways that life can be seen to disappoint, as he sings about giving our children work to be proud of. Given David Cameron’s recent slating of the British education system, some of Mangan’s language really hits home. Although the lyrics may sound too heavy and consuming for easy listening, the fantastic instrumental input makes this tune immensely catchy and appealing. Mangan manages to open your mind whilst providing immense entertainment.
Dan Mangan has cleverly utilised his talent and the medium of YouTube to address his fans (and non-fans) to hear his musical politics and it really couldn’t be done more fashionably. Mangan’s style communicates real cultural worries, and it’s through a sound that you can truly become lost in. However, this is not to say that his music cannot be consumed more passively as the tracks remain catchy and rhythmic by any measure, with the added value of provocative lyrics. The clever ways in which he breaks down the folk music of our past brings the possibility to incorporate new and exciting prospects musically; Mangan is well on the road to achieving this.
Without a doubt, Mangan promises to be a bigger part of our culture, on a more present basis in our future, as he continues on his journey to take the world by storm. ‘Oh Fortune’ (remember – it’s commended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge themselves) is well worth a listen.