Release Date: May 9, 2006
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Since the debut of his legendary audio senior thesis for Rutgers in 1995, Daniel Smith has been crafting an alternate universe where the most wildly subversive, joyous, and demented music in the non-secular world is filtered through a Christian viewfinder, albeit a decidedly skewed one. The success of Ships, the latest from the prolific, giant tree-suit wearing anomaly, depends entirely on the listener's opinion of the success of the Danielson empire. For years, Smith has hinted at gathering all of his musical brethren (Sufjan Stevens, Danielson Famile, Half Handed Cloud, Deerhoof, etc.) into the same room to celebrate the genre he helped popularize for a session to end all sessions.
If you found the Polyphonic Spree too safe or conservative, Danielson are your band. Fronted by Christian hippie oddball Daniel Smith, this cultish collective have been releasing surreal records for a decade under names such as Danielson Famile and Br Danielson. Ships is their biggest aural fantasy yet, as a 20-piece band (including superfan Sufjan Stevens) romps through styles with the kind of glee usually induced by religious mania or strong narcotics.
The official narrative of Daniel Smith’s newest album is that it began as a small project that overflowed its banks, becoming a behemoth spilling beyond this CD into a forthcoming series of 7”s with no fewer than 34 individuals - including the entire Danielson Famile, Deerhoof, Why?, Steve Albini, Edith Frost, Sufjan Stevens, Ladytron, Half-Handed Cloud, and a handful of others - playing significant roles in shaping its sound and content in a big party of past Danielson contributors making this a culmination of sorts, both in terms of personnel and nomenclature, with Smith reverting to the original name “Danielson” after going through a Palace- or Sun Ra-esque series of nominal permutations. Oh yeah, and God finds his way in there too. It’s not a bad narrative, and it does do a pretty accurate job of describing the sound of Ships.