Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds
Dan Mangan is a Vancouver songwriter who until now made his name on jaunty folk music influenced equally by the Beatles and the Prince of Doomed Troubadours himself, Nick Drake. His fourth album – and the first using the name “+ Blacksmith” ups the ante on maturity, remaking him into a sort of adult ambient experimental folk singer, like what would happen if Grizzly Bear stripped down and stretched things out into a drone. It’s all very serious and intense, playing with purpose and intent, but its 45-minute runtime means that “serious and intense” is coded language for “kind of boring”. It’s the same sort of instrumental build-up on every track, and the releases that are given aren’t always a just reward for listening. In some places – notably on the admittedly great one-two punch of “Offred” and “Vessel” – it works well, achieving an emotional resonance, but on too much of the album (especially the Radiohead-biting “A Doll’s House/Pavlovia”) it devolves into humdrum banality.