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The Evolution Of Singer-Songwriter Dan Mangan

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dan Mangan's music has evolved over the last decade. The 31-year-old singer-songwriter's first album offered quiet folk songs in the style of Nick Drake. His last album, the acclaimed "Oh Fortune," leaned heavily toward rock. And Mangan's new album, "Club Meds," is a turn towards the experimental. Reviewer Tom Moon says it's wildly ambitious and thoroughly engrossing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OFFRED")

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Dan Mangan doesn't read music. He's from indie rock - considers himself a word guy. A few years ago when he needed a band, he reached out to musicians from Vancouver's jazz scene. Together they've developed an unusual, sometimes dizzying sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OFFRED")

DAN MANGAN + BLACKSMITH: (Singing) I give in. I do not have the fight. They changed my purpose, especially everything.

MOON: Mangan credits the players, known collectively as Blacksmith, with changing his approach to songwriting. He once crammed every space with words and images. Now he opens things up with expansive instrumental passages. These deepen the already shadowy moods.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OFFRED")

MOON: Mangan draws inspiration from Peter Gabriel and other progressive rockers, as well as novelists like Margaret Atwood and Milan Kundera. And like a novelist, he obsessively writes and rewrites.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KITSCH")

DAN MANGAN + BLACKSMITH: (Singing) Boys in the trenches. Call it old fashioned, call it nostalgia.

MOON: He says it took a solid year of editing to get some of these lyrics into finished form. By contrast, the instrumental reveries came together quickly. Often they grew out of open-ended experimentation, or jamming.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A DOLL'S HOUSE/PAVLOVIA")

MOON: Dan Mangan admits he used to suffer from singer-songwriter disease - the belief that everything important in a song directly relates to the words. Inside the riveting and sometimes chaotic collaborations of his new album "Club Meds," it sounds like he's found a cure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VESSEL")

SIEGEL: The latest from Dan Mangan + Blacksmith is called "Club Meds." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VESSEL")

DAN MANGAN + BLACKSMITH: (Singing) I'm a vessel in the valley. I'm in the middle of the season. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.