With each new album, Dan Mangan pushes himself further from his roots as a sensitive, heart-on-sleeve acoustic singer-songwriter, and Club Meds continues the trend. This record posits Mangan as a bandleader rather than a solo act, since it's co-credited to his group Blacksmith, and it downplays troubadour-like folksiness in favour of cryptic darkness. Although Mangan is still a balladeer at heart, his mellow songs now come swaddled in blankets of reverb and fleshed out by inventive full-band arrangements that draw on art-rock, worldbeat and jazz. The results recall Radiohead's OK Computer — think quiet, atmospheric moments like "Exit Music (For a Film)" or "The Tourist" — in that they highlight standard full-band instrumentation but nevertheless sound alien.
"Vessel" is the album's clear highlight, its mix of futuristic pop and African influences resembling Peter Gabriel in his '80s heyday. The song even boasts a subtle cameo from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl during the backing vocals in the chorus. But aside from this titanic single, Club Meds is an album of subtle pleasures that's more likely to creep under your skin than hit you over the head. (Arts & Crafts)