A 24-year veteran of Vancouver's indefatigable folk pop outfit Spirit of the West, John Mann has adopted the moniker Mister Mann for his first solo record since his 2002 debut, Acoustic Kitty. Mann's solo material has none of the frenetic catchiness of SotW's best-known songs. Rather, Mann lopes along at an easy pace, backing adept lyrics with simple instrumentation. On this sophomore release, Mann has stripped everything right down to bare bones, boiling his musical sensibility down to the concentrated strumming of a single acoustic guitar behind his acerbic lyrics and warmly familiar vocals. At its best, December Looms is gripping. "I Play Blind" offers the best display of his heart-rending lyrical skill as he describes a couple in denial, clinging to each other despite the obvious fissures in their relationship. And "The New Normal" represents a perfect melding of Mann's comfortable, world-weary voice, his stunningly cynical lyrics and capable musicianship.
Rachel Sanders, Mar 22, 2007
Mister Mann is the solo album project of John Mann, lead singer and songwriter of the Vancouver folk pop band Spirit of the West. After over a decade of touring the UK, Europe and North America with Spirit, December Looms is a return to his stripped down Alt Folk roots. Its a record gift wrapped in contrasts; the sparsest arrangements provide the richest and fullest of sounds. The darkest tales of caution and struggle are bound in the most appealing melodies. Half confessional, half observational, emotionally honest lyrics capture the intimate moments of Mann's home town of Vancouver and its occupants, the fragile details of their dysfunctional love and the loss of a city's innocence. Its a deceptively simple album whose songs mostly clock in at around 2 1/2 minutes but the short vignettes are rich and complete as everything strummed and sung feels necessary and full of purpose. If Damien Rice was Jeff Tweedy and Jeff Tweedy was Josh Ritter you'd come away with something kindred to December Looms.