i guess you could safely say that daniel smith
was ten years ahead of his time. he's been doing his thing since way back in 1996, playing the role of father figure to christian music's bastard stepchildren, the danielson famile
. the only quandry for smith was that back then most people, especially the christian listening community, shrugged his work off as pure novelty. they never saw the genius in it. while sitting at the christian bookstore's listening station, going through demo tapes, you put a prayer for every hour
into the deck and suddenly found your ears lambasted by some whacked-out freaky falsetto-ness. you passed the headphones to your friend, who then asked you "what the heck is this?" and after replying, "i don't know, but it sure is weird, isn't it?", you got a nice hardy-har-har laugh and then slapped that five iron frenzy tape into the walkman and got your ska-lleluia on.
i like what the allmusic guide
has to say about danielson:"the danielson famile is unmistakably a christian band, but in the same way that flannery o'connor was a christian writer. they reject the conventional set of christian symbols and subject matter while at the heart of every song, underneath the weirdness, is a perfectly orthodox christian message; and smith's falsetto vocals are downright shocking, an effective tool in cutting through the barriers to convey these messages. no contemporary christian radio station in their right mind would ever play danielson, they're just too out there. they sound like captain beefheart's magic band joined by the partridge family at some roadside revival along the jersey turnpike -- definitely an acquired taste."
flash forward to today, ten years and one sufjan stevens
later, and - thanks to the likes of animal collective
, devendra banhart
, the microphones
...and i would even include clinic
- weird, experimental free-form music is "in" and daniel smith suddenly finds himself in the thick of things. honestly, who would've thunk it?
and that, my friends, is the only explanation i can find for why smith is finally getting some of the respect, attention, and admiration from fans and peers that he has always been due. ships
is smith at his grandest and most grandiose, and it includes contributions from every member of the danielson famile tree over the years (yes, that includes stevens), as well as many other artists (why?, serena maneesh, the aforementioned deerhoof, etc.), is probably the most accessible and accomplished thing he's ever done and arguably the strongest batch of songs he's ever put together on a single record.noteworthy update (thurs., 5/11):
well, well, well. what do you know? the almight pitchfork has just recognized the brilliance of this record, as well. editor ryan schreiber gave it a whopping 9.1 rating
this morning, welcoming it into the prestiged halls of their best new music
"cast it at the setting sail"
"did i step on your trumpet?"
"kids pushing kids"
from the album: ships
release date: 05/09/06
label: sounds familyre