Mister Mann December Looms

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. (Independent)