Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Dan Mangan

To say it's been a stellar year for Vancouver's Dan Mangan would be putting it lightly. The release of his latest album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice has earned him loads of awards and acclaim, including the XM Verge Award for Artist of the Year and winning big at the R3 Bucky awards for both Best Vocals and the top prize, Best Song for his song Robots. Probably best pegged as an indie-folk-singer-songwriter, Mangan never falls back on the clichés of those genres that would make his music all too easy... and generic. He soars above with his acoustic guitar, his voice that sounds well past his 26-years and intelligent song writing & sense of humour to prove that all the acclaim that he has received this year has been well earned.

"Road Regrets" kicks off the album and pretty much sets the tone, lulling you in before "Robots" fully grabs you. A brilliant & amazingly catchy tune, I defy anyone with a soul not to join in the sing along at the end (especially at live shows). "The Indie Queens Are Waiting", featuring Veda Hille, is a touching number which proves he's not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve & reveal insecurities. I can't be the only one who can relate to lyrics like "Bus down to the local record store / to buy something to make you like me more" (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite lines of the year). "Sold" is a looser, more high energy & upbeat song before things get epic with "Fair Verona". Loosely based off Romeo & Juliet (as the title suggests), it is absolutely heartfelt and full of so much raw emotion that when the song climaxes into a sweeping, majestic end it almost leaves you drained. The awesomely titled "You Silly Git" is another sweet song which features some fantastic strings. "Tina’s Glorious Comeback" will be an instant favourite of anyone who knows Vancouver or the culture and "Et Les Mots Croisés" is another nice, strings-y song, which leads into "Some People", a song brimming with energy. "Pine For Cedars" is another melancholic beauty, but this one has a couple pun-filled lines that are, again, quite Vancouver specific which shows even when baring his soul, Mangan is not without a sense of humour and whimsy. The shining point of the album is definitely "Basket", a heart-wrenching song that will bring a tear to the eye of even the most jaded hipster; however it's not without its optimism. Finally, it comes to a close with "Set The Sails", a near perfect way to end the album, bringing everything down with some light piano and strings.

There is an interesting symmetry to the album, at least with the opening and closing tracks. "Set The Sails" is as perfect a closer as "Road Regrets" is an opener and "Basket" is as heartbreaking as "Robots" is joyous. This just goes to show the range of Mangan's songwriting and his lack of fear when letting his emotions out. With as much hype that now surrounds Mangan, it would be easy to write him off as over hyped or unworthy of all the attention, but both the album and his live show more than proves Dan Mangan lives up to the acclaim with the superb and intelligent songwriting. It is safe to say, Nice, Nice, Very Nice is one of my favourite albums of the year.

(Also, I am somewhat proud of making it through the review without making the obvious [and overused] "Nice, Nice, Very Nice" pun!)

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