The start of the first song Offred makes me question if i'm listening to a Dan Mangan album and that grabbed my attention right away. The digital ticking, steady beats of the drums, the cloud of distortion, and finally Dan starts singing. This "Is" a Mangan album, just evolved. Offred is written from the perspective of the protagonist in the book "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. And while you might not be able to that on your own because Dan doesn't vocally spell it out for you but he does tell a tale musically with Blacksmith.
Vessel is not as shocking after you have digested Offred, it sounds almost poppy, taking some influence from popular 80's bands. Cane you find Dave Grohl in this song? This song was written for the movie "Hector and The Search For Happiness" and the Director asked Dave Grohl to help do a little bit of signing.
Mouthpiece feels very familiar to the Dan Mangan I remember hearing on his previous records. almost like where I would have normally expected this album to go but I'm not disappointed in this song or the fact that most songs from this album are experimental leaps from what came before it. I'm happy that I get this song because those drums and bass just get me all pumped up and then Dan's vocals come over this song like icing on a cake to make this one nice complete package.
A Doll's House / Pavlovia brings me right back to Offred. It feels very new, creative and special. This was a song that Gordon had already wrote and Dan came along with a second melody that was meant to be played along side Gordon's. The combination sadly leads to Dan's vocals over powering Gordon's. I would have liked to have heard their vocals a little more evened out.
Kitsch, like Mouthpiece feels more like traditional Dan Mangan but after getting a greater appreciation for instruments. I like the Bass in this song a lot, they were very close to over doing it on the bass but stopped just short of it. This is because the Bass was the initial frame of the song with everything being built around it.
After mentioning Kitsch and mouthpiece being like an evolved version of his old stuff, XVI feels like it was taken directly off of one of his old albums. I very much enjoyed this mellow song that takes about the war between upper class and lower class. XVI is reverence to Louie XVI of France during the French Revolution, and Dan also mentions more modern events relating to the Wall st. Movement. He's not saying that one side is wrong but that both sides need to understand each other. If I wanted to look deep for meaning I can say that we love this old style of Dan but we get something even better when we mix the wonderful vocals of Dan Mangan with Blacksmith.
Now for my favourite song on this album, War Spoils. I love that the lyrics are basically just bullet points. Dan's vocals are more instrumental here then in any other song of his. I would almost call this song an instrumental. This song is very mellow and creepy. With a name like War Spoils, I picture a scene at the end of war, the only spoils of either side are just what was lost over the conflict and no one truly wins.
Forgetery's drums come over the ending of War Spoils guitar. Not sure if this was to connect the songs in anyway or just that the connection worked. I like the balance between the instruments and his vocals in this song.
I like how Club Meds appropriately feels like a medically induced trip. Gordon's guitar playing really shines here and it almost seems like everyone enjoyed themselves going on this little trip while playing the song.
I still don't sit one way or another with Pretty Good Joke. It feels almost perfectly pieced together, but doesn't flow like the rest of the album. This song is about going through our norms, worrying about things that we shouldn't be, and this song embodies that feeling. I am just not sure if it makes the song good.
New Skies is another favourite just because it does a lot and I like how it knew it was going to be the ending track. The song sounds so sad but the lyrics are so positive, and then not having a true ending, but ending with the same type of sound that we started with at Offred. Dan Mangan and Blacksmith really ended strong and left me wanting more.
In the end if this was just another Dan Mangan album, I think I would have been done with him. I was about ready to call him a one trick pony once I listened to his last album Oh Fortune. Then when I heard this album was credited as Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, my interest came flooding back and they didn't disappoint. While some songs were not a masterful as others the album was nice as a whole. Mouthpiece, War Spoils, and New Skies really stood out for me while Pretty Good Joke, Forgetery, and Kitsch were underwhelming. Blacksmith was exactly what Dan Mangan needed and I hope Dan Mangan + Blacksmith will continue making music.