album reviews

Best of Gloucester County
Sounds Familyre (2011)

Kindred spirits: Sufjan Stevens, the Mountain Goats, Beat Happening

Daniel Smith has never shied away from chaos in his music, which he has released under a variety of monikers (Danielson, Danielson Famile and Brother Danielson) that reflect both his indie-gospel leanings and his kin-centric approach to music-making (his siblings, wife and friends have all taken part in his recordings). His latest album, "Best of Gloucester County", is slightly more subdued than his earlier recordings, sounding more like a solo project than his critically beloved (and instrumentally frenzied) 2006 album, "Ships".

Smith still enlists the help of family and several friends (notably Jens Lekman and Sufjan Stevens), but it's the straightforwardness of these songs that makes the album sound more like a collection of carefully crafted compositions rather than bursts of Smith's typical campfire bedlam.

What makes Smith's music so distinctive — his shrill, Geddy Lee-like voice — hasn't calmed down with his mellower approach here. He wails frantically on "Grow Up" and squeals on "But I Don't Wanna Sing About Guitars". Even "Complimentary Dismemberment Insurance", which features a more traditional vocal melody, is peppered with Smith's hooting falsetto, showing that he can still channel his fiery passion even as he's trying to calm things down.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 15 April 2011
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