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Dan Mangan: Still very nice

Vancouver threw a 125th birthday party on the weekend with free concerts in Stanley Park, and my previously admitted musical crush on Dan Mangan was solidified. He closed out the weekend with a packed show and came across as genuinely grateful for his home town’s support and thrilled at playing to an adoring crowd of thousands in the spectacular setting.

Check out the crowd on the last chorus of the last song of the night, his biggest hit Robots:

Onstage with him is Mayor Gregor Robertson as well as musicians who had also played that weekend, including Said The Whale, Aidan Knight, Hey Ocean, and others.

Earlier, before plugs for next weekend’s Folk Festival and a Save the CBC pitch, Mangan had given the spotlight to Aidan Knight, bringing the younger singer onstage to sing his single Jasper while Mangan sang backup. (Vid is from another performance. It’s not a great summer here but there’s no snow.)

While what I’ve heard live of Mangan’s upcoming album, Oh Fortune, indicates his previous, Nice, Nice, Very Nice will likely remain my favourite, add his support for causes such as homelessness and cystic fibrosis to his generous musicianship, and Mangan remains a worthy musical crush.

Full judgement on the album will have to be reserved until it’s released September 27, but here’s a couple of acoustic versions of two of the most memorable songs I’ve heard from Oh Fortune – I especially love the title track:

Dan Mangan – “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”

Dan Mangan – “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”

Since I’ve already confessed my long-standing brain crush this weekend, now it’s time to confess a musical crush: Vancouver artist Dan Mangan and his album Nice, Nice, Very Nice (such a  nice Canadian title, eh?). I think I first heard Mangan from new-ish radio station The Peak – which like all commercial radio stations mostly plays the same thing over and over again, but in their case, they play music I love that you don’t hear ad nauseam from other stations over and over again, and thus have introduced me to some new favourites.

I do love the album, but his videos make me love it even more. They’re beautifully shot mini-movies fitting to the tone of their accompanying songs.

Road Regrets is a melancholic animation:

Indie Queens are Waiting looks like an indie movie shot in a local diner:

And Robots is a hilarious parody of an 80s gang movie:

Random pop culture thoughts

Random pop culture thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve done a roundup of my recent relevant Twitter activity so here’s some of my latest pop culture thoughts, in 140 characters or fewer:

  • Web Therapy web series by Lisa Kudrow/Don Roos is pretty funny – and not geoblocked.
  • Mostly loved Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though a little slow, a little puzzling in its themes, a little Forrest Gumpy.
  • I’m quoted in article re: TV marketing (re: ZOS on Air Canada). Weird to be interviewee instead of interviewer.
  • Loving new music purchases TV on the Radio, Deerhunter, Mates of State. Mostly discover music via TV shows and popcandy. Me=unhip.
  • Been watching Gavin & Stacey so if it’s remade by a US network I can be smug and say it’s not as good as the original. Love it so far.
  • Neighbour gave me Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Like Harry Potter for adults. Not my usual read but I’m enjoying.
  • Bakugan makes no sense to me [it’s a tv show like Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh, but also a game I was “taught” over the holidays]. Doomed to feel intellectually inferior to friend’s 8 year old. But I’m totally smarter than the toddler.
  • Book gifts I received – The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, and Troublesome Words. Is it possible I’m a nerd? Nah.
  • No energy to write year review so Twitter version: TV sucked, best movie, Slumdog MillionairePredictably Irrational most interesting book.
  • So I can’t get away with just saying TV sucked? Fine. Writers strike hurt 2 seasons. Bit disappointed in fave shows, no new shows to love.

Want to follow me on Twitter? I’m here.

Slumdog Millionaire – my pick for best movie of the year


I’m a fairly analytical person. I like things to make sense, have order, be logical, and I puzzle over them until I can make them fit into some semblance of sense, order, and logic. I also believe that life rarely makes sense, has order, or is logical, and for some reason that thought comforts me more than the platitudes of “Everything happens for a reason, blah blah blah.” That’s where the poetry of life comes in, and actual poetry, and even some song lyrics.

I’m the DJ of my shared office at work by virtue of my better computer speakers, so my officemate and I were talking about examples of lyric snippets we love, but we realized that talking about why they affected us killed what it was we loved. Sometimes analysis needs to make way for simple appreciation of wordplay, or the evocation of a particular feeling.

These are some random examples that have popped up for me lately (these are lines of lyrics that affect me for ineffable reasons, not necessarily overall songs that do):

“I could change my life to better suit your mood.”
– from Smooth by Santana with Rob Thomas

“Every time she sneezes, I believe it’s love.”
– from Anna Begins by Counting Crows

“Beautiful minds, trying to keep it independent in recruitable times.”
– from Breath by Swollen Members with Nelly Furtado

“It’s 3 am, I must be lonely”
– from 3 am by Matchbox 20 (hmm, making it two for Rob Thomas in my top-of-mind examples)

“In the cathedrals of New York and Rome, there is a feeling that you should just go home, and spend a lifetime finding out just where that is.”
– from Cathedrals by Jump Little Children

A Musical Ride for Canada Day (no RCMP required)

In honour of Canada Day, a post completely unrelated to the occasion! But happy Canada Day, fellow Canucks. July 1 we commemorate the day we broke sort-of free from our British overlords by asking “please, can we form our own country?” Canadian history: so polite. (Except for all the other bloody, shameful stuff, of course.)

Anyway, I’ve got a couple more Banff posts in the works but DMc tagged me a while ago on the music meme that’s popping up here, there, and everywhere, and I felt the need for a good palate cleanse before I finish up that series. The idea is:

“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now.”

Some of these are from the music I brought on my recent Alberta-Quesnel road trip, and others are what’s playing in my office lately, but all are what’s on my mind at this moment:

1. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. I could have picked almost any song on his latest album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, but this is the first single and representative of his infectious boppiness. My officemate sort-of introduced me to the magic of Mraz, though I’d previously heard some of his tunes without connecting them together. I’m the de facto DJ of our shared office and early on, when I’d have random Internet radio playing, he’d occasionally ask “Who’s this?” I always had to check, and the answer always seemed to be “Jason Mraz.” It’s become a running joke, even when he knows damn well who this is.

“ I guess what I be saying is there ain’t no better reason to rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons.

2. “Mercy” by Duffy. It’s the hit single off the altogether fine album Rockferry, so maybe it’s another too-obvious choice, but what can I say, it’s a worthy hit. The lyrics get to me as much as the musical hooks: maybe I know too many people who are in love with otherwise attached people, but this is a catchy lament for that predicament. Duffy is a young Welsh singer with an old-soul voice, and after listening to the album I always have to put this one on repeat until I get it out of my system.

“Now you think that I will be something on the side but you’ve got to understand that I need a man who can take my hand.”

3. “If You Want Me” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. I’m still not over Once, the movie or the music. “Falling Slowly” won the Oscar with the sweetest acceptance speeches ever, plus one of the sweetest Oscar moments ever when host Jon Stewart brought Irglová back onstage to finish hers. But this is by far my favourite song from the soundtrack, from a scene in the movie that is equally sweet. Recently everyone in the office seems to have borrowed this CD from me because I can’t resist cranking it when “Falling Slowing” and “If You Want Me” come on.

“If you want me, satisfy me.”

4. “Galway Girl” by Steve Earle. It’s in my heavy rotation right now because Gerard Butler sings it to Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You, which I saw not too long ago. Shut up, I know that makes me a sap.

“And I ask you, friend, what’s a fella to do, ’cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue.”

5. “Cucurrucucu Paloma” by Caetano Veloso. This has been haunting me since my boss asked me to translate a bit of dialogue at the end of this video, from the movie Hable Con Ella which I saw long ago — roughly speaking: “That Caetano, he gives me goosebumps.” And he sure does in this song of lost love.

“Juran que esa paloma no es otra cosa más que su alma.” (“They swear that this dove is nothing more than his soul.”)

6. (Antichrist Television Blues) by Arcade Fire. Again, I love the whole album, but this is the song I keep coming back to, both lyrically and musically. I have no idea if it’s based on anyone in particular, but it seems like an indictment of a Joe Simpson type (daddy of Jessica and Ashley). In New York. I dunno, but I like it, especially for its abrupt ending.

“I need you to get up on the stage for me, honey, show the men it’s not about the money. Want to hold a mirror up to the world, so that they can see themselves inside my little girl.”

7. “Teardrop” by José González. Yes, I’m a parody of myself: one of my songs is House-related. But it’s also really good. It’s a cover of the theme song by Massive Attack, used during a musical montage in the heartbreaking finale, “Wilson’s Heart”. González is a Swedish singer – bet you weren’t expecting that – probably best known for his song “Crosses,” which is also really good. But did I mention this one is from House?

“Love, love is a verb. Love is a doing word.”

I’m going to cop out and not tag anyone but throw it open to anyone who hasn’t already participated. There must be a few of you out there.

More musical memories

My car seems to bring up many musical memories. I wrote earlier about the song that makes me sing out loud and act like a human bobblehead every time it comes on the car stereo. Today, a song I detest came on as I was driving, bringing back fond memories of my two years in Mexico. That made me reflect on the string of often-mediocre songs that have become my musical memory of countries who can’t always even be blamed for the music.

The entire time I was in France on a one-month exchange in high school, a 14-year-old Vanessa Paradis (that’s almost-Mrs. Johnny Depp to you now) was on top of the charts with Joe le Taxi. At least she is, in fact, French. And so very, very 80s in this video:

When I was in Peru, Manu Chao’s music was everywhere. He is French and Spanish, but something of a Latin American hero, a musical Che Guevara:

On that same trip to the Andes, we heard a familiar melody several times. Our guide in Bolivia assured us that it wasn’t a region populated with Simon and Garfunkel fans, but rather Paul Simon had used a South American melody set to English words for El Condor Pasa (If I Could). That song never fails to bring my Bolivian adventure to mind:

Poor Mexico drew the short straw in this musical memory tour, with the song that inspired this reflection. When I first arrived in 2000, Bolivian group Azul Azul’s smash hit La Bomba was everywhere – blaring in buses, stores, bars, homes. Everywhere. All the time. And this is the song, much as I hate it, that conjures so many fond memories of Mexico, a country that should not be blamed for its existence: