Best tunes of 2011: #10 Dan Mangan “Post-war blues”

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Maybe you folks outside of Canada can help me out here. I’m not sure at all how well-known West Coast singer/songwriter Dan Mangan is outside of his (and my) country but around these parts, he definitely does quite well. In 2011, he released, “Oh, fortune”, his third full length and second on indie super-label Arts & Crafts. It was his second album to be long-listed for a Polaris prize (Canada’s equivalent to the Mercury) and the following year garnered the man a couple of Junos (our version of the Grammy).

As an album, the lush instrumentation that filled out his gorgeous songwriting and baritone vocals was a stark contrast against the relative austerity of his acoustic-laden previous effort, 2009’s “Nice, nice, very nice”. The subject matter was still quite dark, even in its humorous moments, but it all felt cleaner and more accomplished. “Post-war blues” was the obvious single on the album, a rousing number that starts with a drum roll and leaps into Arcade Fire territory, circa “Funeral”, complete with chugging beats, screaming guitars and a string backbone. And in that kindly voice of his, he sings words that seem oddly reminiscent of their hope in youth and cynicism with the aged.

“Let’s start a war for the kids
A purpose for which to unite
Make them some words they can mince
What they don’t know, They won’t mind”

And yes, for those Kubrick fans out there, you really need to watch the hilarious, Strangelove-inspired video. The pair, video and song, are just so great together and if you do manage a chance to see Dan Mangan perform live, definitely take it. He definitely made a bigger fan of me.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #26 Iron And Wine “Lion’s mane”

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Iron And Wine is the stage name for Sam Beam, an American singer/writer who sported a big bushy beard before it became a thing again. I somehow came across him shortly after he released his debut album, “The creek drank the cradle”, in 2002, though I don’t think I became a huge fan until I heard his collaboration with Calexico a few years later: 2005’s “In the reins” EP. I found it interesting, then, when I recently learned that the songs on his debut were meant to be filled in by members of Calexico but instead, the demo versions he recorded in his home studio were released as the version of “The creek that drank the cradle” we know and love.

“Lion’s mane” is the opening track and if you’re not familiar with the album, it is representative of the old school folk you’re going to hear with the rest, simple but compelling, and reminiscent of Nick and Paul and all those kids. The song is lo-fi and sparse and intimate and immediate, the simplicity never becoming tired. The acoustic guitar and banjo take turns being lovingly plucked, while Beam softly whispers the vocals without sounding affected. There’s just no need to be loud with such idyllic, woodsy, rustic sounds. You can almost smell the pine, wood smoke, sounds of crickets, and the wind the rustling through the leaves. No, there’s no cell phone signal here or wi-fi or television. Just wood stove coffee and pipe tobacco and periodically walking down to the lake to catch the cool off the water. Lovely stuff.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Live music galleries: Ottawa Bluesfest 2019, day three – Children of Indigo, The Beths, Pup, This is the Kit

(Since I’ll be too busy attending Ottawa Bluesfest over the next week or so to continue with this blog’s regularly scheduled programming, I thought I would do a special ‘live galleries’ series this week to share some pics from some of the sets I am enjoying.)

Entrance to Bluesfest

Artists: Children of Indigo, The Beths, Pup, and This is the Kit
When: July 6th, 2019
Where: Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Some words: You might’ve noticed there wasn’t a post yesterday detailing Friday night’s exploits. There’s a good explanation. The original plan was to attend but when the main reason for going that night, Colter Wall, cancelled earlier in the day, I made the call to stay home, what with the dodgy weather, lack of sleep, early wake up hour the next day, and the country heavy musical content and expected crowds. By my count, that’s four cancellations for this year’s festival, bad luck in its twenty-fifth year. Here’s hoping the bad luck ends there and the rest of the festival runs smoothly.

When I arrived yesterday, nice and early, I still wasn’t expecting crowds in the entrance line so like Thursday night, the temporary barricade maze was more walking than I wanted to do in that heat. So after I entered, I once again headed inside to the Barney Danson theatre where a surprisingly large crowd had gathered to hear an early set by a lovely, local indie folk trio named Children of Indigo. Unlike Thursday, there was no overlap last night so I didn’t have to rush anywhere afterwards and actually got to enjoy some full sets.

Next up was the band I was most excited to see last night, an indie rock trio out of New Zealand called The Beths. If you haven’t heard them, check them out. To my ears, they sound quite a bit like Alvvays and Camera Obscura but with more fuzz. I’ve been listening to their album a lot in the lead up to last night but their performance was so good, it pushed me to pick up a copy of their record at the merch tent.

Just after dinner time, I headed over to the main stage to catch Toronto punk band Pup struggle to reconcile their counter-culture cred and such a huge outdoor audience. They shouldn’t have worried so much as their fans were just as pleased to mosh and pump their fists outdoors as in. I stayed out of the fray and enjoyed the energy from afar. I finished my evening early, back where I started, in the Barney Danson theatre, with British folk songstress Kate Stables, who might be better known under stage name, This is the kit. I had originally thought to stick around for The Turbans, the headliners on one of the side stages, but after drinking a few beers in the afternoon heat, my bed and AC were the stronger calls.

Natasha Pedersen and David Campbell of Children of Indigo
Mitchell Jackson of Children of Indigo
Tristan Deck of The Beths
Jonathan Pearce of The Beths
Benjamin Sinclair of The Beths
Elizabeth Stokes of The Beths
Steve Sladkowski of Pup
Zack Mykula and Nestor Chumak of Pup
Stefan Babcock of Pup
This is the Kit with The Texas Horns
Kate Stables aka This is the Kit