Dan Mangan / Postcards and Daydreaming (Independent)

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There's something about Dan Mangan's songs that seems more apt to fogged-in November days than to the hazy height of July. Maybe it's the 22-year-old songwriter's surprisingly weatherbeaten voice, which, while it is a perfectly capable melodic instrument, occasionally scrapes along with a sandpaper rasp. Maybe it's the instrumentation, which includes plenty of infinite-sadness cello (courtesy of Finn Manniche) and the odd bit of muted, 'round-about-midnight trumpet (played by Ryan Naso). Or it could be Mangan's lyrics, like these ones from the deeply sardonic "Fabulous": "Wishing the world would fuck off/At least then I could be bitter". Things aren't quite so dire in every song. The narrator of the closing number, "Reason to Think Aloud", is about to spend a bleak Christmas alone (another clue that this isn't good-times summer music), but he seems to be grasping at a slim shard of promise that things will get better. This balance of despair and hope makes the deliciously downbeat Postcards and Daydreaming a good sulky-day companion for anyone who has already invested in the collected works of Hayden or Crooked Fingers.