Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Dan Haggis

Yeah okay, I did plan on just doing a review of Haggis’ latest solo album Brightly Coloured Creatures but truth is, I couldn’t with a healthy conscience ignore the other work that he’s strived to make. Now I’ve written a review of his solo album Circadian Circus which if you missed you should definitely check that out, but I think (especially right now) with the state of the world and how disproportionately it’s affected the livelihoods of musicians, I think it’s only right to share with you even more of Haggis’ work, give him the rightly deserved streams he deserves. So to focus on Sunship Balloon’s Everywhen (his 2020 album with Tord Øverland Knudsen) and of course his very recent follow up to his 2017 solo album, here’s why we love Dan Haggis.

Obviously, anyone who’s anyone has heard of The Wombats, and if you’re someone with taste you’ll know the absolute passion that goes into making those albums and how brilliant they are, but when it comes to making music outside of that well-established name, Dan gets even more of a chance to show off his skills. Whether you’re falling in love with his solo work for something painfully relatable to, or getting an escape through the space journey of Sunship Balloon, there is absolutely everything to fall in love with.

With 2020’s Everywhen, Haggis and Knudsen created an album full of futuristic sounds coincided with analogue 80s synths, all which whisk you away into an alternate reality to ponder life’s most curious questions. When I first listened to Everywhen I immediately felt some sort of instrumental connection to like likes of The 1975, but even more so to the legendary Brian Eno, the ambient instrumental tracks especially that just change your perspective of the world, sounding like they could have been taken straight off one of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy records or an album like Eno and Robert Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. It just makes for such a surreal listening experience (a crime that it’s not available on vinyl really) and you can just really hear the fun that went into making this record.

The entire album is perfect, there are so many amazing tracks to choose, from the electronic rock blaster that is Interstellar Ride, 1224 Fantasia which just desires to be played on a show like Top Of The Pops back in 1985, to the more experimental Eno inspired tracks such as title track Everywhen and the albums closer Flat Earther’s that really does sound like it belongs with the likes of Neuköln on Bowie’s Heroes. The energetic anthem A4 Life is superb though, it’s here where you can really hear some of those familiar Wombats and even some of Knudsen’s other band Imitating Aeroplanes vibes (I mean why wouldn’t you), but all the same completely turned on their heads to create a sound that’s so presently fresh but heartwarmingly nostalgic.

Glossing over Sunship Balloon and now moving to Brightly Coloured Creatures, after working on Everywhen, Dan The Man’s third solo outing definitely takes some of those 80’s sounds and finds a wonderful home within his new music. Circadian Circus was a brilliant album, but Brightly Coloured Creatures is completely its successor. Everything that was brilliant about the 2017 venture has been put on steroids and increased tenfold. The songwriting, melodies and production have all stepped up and each track is uniquely warm. Thematically it does continue a lot of similar themes that of Circadian Circus, but perhaps a little more universal than the depth into Haggis’ soul that we were exposed to with the last album.

Muscle Memory kicks off the album in such a flawless way, being ever so reminiscent of his previous release, but with bigger everything. Genuinely feels like it’s the opening track to a film, it gives meaning to whatever you could be doing when listening to it, making a cuppa? That cuppa’s DEEP now. Young Lovers the albums second track and first single is where you can really hear how much musical progression Haggis has developed since 2017, sounding more like the kind of track you’d hear off Everywhen but because of that oh so personal touch Haggis effortlessly shines over his lyrics, you know exactly where this track truly belongs.

This album, like its brother, is absolutely perfect and every track is a real gem. From blissful melancholy meanders like Obsolete and Earthmover, which are such beautifully constructed tracks, and the line “Can we just go back and reset it all, Now we’re obsolete” is just *chef kiss*, who hasn’t felt like that at some point? And especially after the year we’ve just been through (yeah happy anniversary to that by the way) it’s such a poignant practice that Haggis just nails every time. It sounds like something you’d find on a Beach House record and is absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the breakdown in Obsolete, which is fantastic. Shaping this woeful helplessness into offset anger mixed with motivation, drenching the line “Swallow the pill” in reverb the way some use medication to put a damper on depression, man Haggis you absolute genius.

See You In Hell is such a tasty track, coming out of nowhere as this almost doo-wop inspired song, albeit with a lot of other influences clearly thrown in the mix, it’s a faster, more energetic and textured sound, evoking vibes of Richard Hawley‘s work and Arctic Monkey’s Suck It And See album. Just magnificent.

Another one of my personal favourites, Unravelling combines so much sonic identity it’s hard to pin it down, but I mean it sounds like Dan The Man so what more could you want? The combined acoustic and spacey lead guitar, and as always Haggis’ vocals are simply a delight here. Lyrically the tracks about DNA, which with the “unravelling” hook makes a lot of sense, but I think the substance behind that goes way beyond where your mind initially registers with it. I think there have been times where we’ve all felt like our very being is “unravelling”, stuck in the fragmentation of crisis and rebirth, along with the prospect of the unknown, and I think this song defines those feelings. I mean it’s either that or it’s a song about DNA but take your pick.

Brightly Coloured Creatures is already one of my favourite records of the year, and we’re only in February. That’s not me being ignorant in the face of what an entire year’s worth of music might bring to my attention, but a statement that Dan Haggis is one of the brightest musicians of our time and I think that goes without saying. Tracks like Memory Lane, Let Me Down and Obsolete are just streamlined perfection and you absolutely must go and listen to the whole album as soon as you can.

I’ll leave you with Peter Pan, a track off Dan’s first solo album which is equally brilliant as both the albums we’ve been over today. Enjoy its festive vibe and take aboard the backlog of music you’ve now got to bathe in. For fan’s of Dan The Man, the music’s going nowhere, and there’s plenty to go around.

Check out Sunship Balloon’s discography here,

And check the rest of Dan’s solo work here.

Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Hidden Gems: Circadian Circus – Dan The Man

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.

Listen to Circadian Circus on Spotify.