Multi-Instrumentalist Dan ‘The Man’ Haggis, best known as the drummer for indie sensations The Wombats, is no stranger to music outside of the award-winning band, with side project Sunship Balloon with fellow Wombats bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen over the last 2 years, working on new music and completing old Wombats demos that never made the final cut. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Haggis has had his fair share of solo music releases since 2012, but it’s 2017’s Circadian Circus that I want to share with you.
Haggis stated around the time of the album’s conception and release that music is a coping mechanism, and that the passing of loved ones was part of what sparked the sudden creativity that led to this album. Circadian Circus goes into lots of different avenues, but mainly explores a lot of personal experience and mental health all wrapped in this ethereal aesthetic that helps shine a light on humanity, but despite being wrapped in this beautiful soundscape and visual paradigm to accompany it, Circadian Circus is actually a rather dark album. Themes of loss, depression and desperation, it’s a true testament to Haggis. In the leadup to the release of the album, I remember being incredibly hyped for it upon hearing lead single Something Good and telling all my friends to listen to it, and upon its release became such an identifiable release of 2017 that I still cherish now… You know, hence this article in case you’ve gotten to this point and you’re still wondering what’s going on, in which case Hi, welcome to Totally Wired Mag, we’re great, but you know what’s better? Circadian Circus.
Track 1, Get Out Of Jail Free is a brilliant opener that gives you a great impression of what this album sounds like, with an absolutely killer chorus. Bringing vibes of The Pogues, Metronomy and Sufjan Stevens, this splendid anthem is just something that does nothing but get stuck inside your head. Seriously you’ll be humming this to yourself for weeks. The production on this is also fantastic, Haggis REALLY showing off his skills, and how he absolutely knows what he’s doing here. Combining indie folk to synthy bedroom pop in a sound that’s familiar but thus far, I don’t think has really been replicated since.
Flowerpot Men (age check if you remember that classic Cebeebies show) brings an almost Beatlesy vibe into the mix, and the chorus is particularly Lennon-esk. Lyrically about the death of someone close which is something Haggis was having to go through during the writing process, but it made for some really humbling lyrics, for example, “They rehoused you on a star / the view must be great from where you are”. Losing someone is obviously something everyone has to go through at some point, but the humanisation of it here acts as such a resounding hand on your shoulder, in times where you’d otherwise feel out of your depth and alone. In addition with that repeated hook of “I’ll be pushing up the daisies, we’ll be flowerpot men”, it’s something that really sticks in your mind, but hauntingly so.
Waiting For Love is one of the more stripped back (but still musically full on) tracks on the album. Strings and pianos carry this track through, and really hone in that hopelessness feeling. But the outro becomes this triumphant escapade that really does leave a glisten in your eye at the prospect of things becoming better, eventually. It’s just a really beautiful song that shines through specifically. It sounds like something Elton John or Father John Misty could write, it’s absolutely majestic.
Something Good was the lead single, and definitely sums up the album’s entire message and musical theme. It invokes the utter desperation for wanting something positive in the abundance of letdowns and sadness, and that is the key element that makes Circadian Circus. I think we’ve all been at the point where we’ve craved something, anything to fix the hard times, and the hook of the track is just something so personally and relatedly versatile; “Give me something good, even if it’s a lie, if it’ll make me smile”. Haggis knows how to pen down some wonderfully written lyrics and Circadian Circus is a testament to it.
What can I say really, Circadian Circus is the perfect album to listen to when things are falling apart around you. Obviously, that’s a very bleak prospect, but what I mean by that is, this album personifies the darkest of times and emotions you can experience, but shines them in an optimistic outlook. Songs like Something Good and Not As Far As It Looks (Self Help Song) are perfect examples of taking the absolute worst your mind can go through, and reshaping them as motivational speeches through music. Musically this album goes almost everywhere, drawing and clashing inspiration from bands like New Order, The Beatles and even elements of Pink Floyd thrown in there. Honestly, Haggis’ talent writing songs from top to bottom is something I can only really compare to giants such as The Beatles which yeah I know that’s a bloody bold thing to say, but there’s a simplicity to pop music and writing with a rawer soundscape in mind that Haggis captures so magnificently here, wrapped in this blanket of modern production that just enhances every sound, it’s something genuinely beautiful and so polished to perfection it just has to be said.
For those who are deeply interested in more music from Haggis, you’ll be pleased to know that just earlier this month he dropped a brand new album entitled Brightly Coloured Creatures, which if you’ve liked what you’ve heard then you’ll definitely enjoy its follow up. I’ll let the new record mull over before doing a piece on it, but trust me it’s marvellous too. I definitely shall review that in due time, but until then, keep your ears open and thanks for reading.