By: Eric Greenwood
With a shrill, pixie-stick blurt to his uneven and deliberately jagged cadence, Daniel Smith resembles the Pixies' Black Francis on crack- two octaves higher and even more erratic. It's an undeniably acquired vocal style, which, coupled with his penchant for wildly eccentric instrumentation and wide-eyed innocence, can make for very difficult listening. Luckily, Smith possesses an unending wellspring of quirky melodies to make his bombastic musical elasticity all the more palatable.
Smith's idiosyncratic schtick should have grown old after two or three records, but he keeps honing his songwriting skills and pushing his willingness to experiment to unforeseen levels. With help from kindred spirits Sufjan Stevens, Deerhoof, and Sareena Maneesh, Danielson has assembled its wildest yet most consistent record to date.
Ships is a kaleidoscopic musical journey through the skewed lens of Smith's informed Christian beliefs that plays like a foot-stomping, sing-along folk extravaganza in some sort of twisted universe, where theatrics and helium squeals are de rigueur.
The music isn't centered on any semblance of traditional song structure. Instead, there are blasts of grating yelps interspersed with unconventional skronks and even hints of '70's cock-rock ("Kids Pushing Kids"). It all unfurls more like a musical than an indie rock record, but don't let the dissonance scare you away.