Best of Gloucester County
Release Date: Feb 22, 11
Danielson, the band led by the great musical sage Daniel Smith, whom has also be known as Danielson Famile and Brother Danielson, releases Best of Gloucester County a long five years after their last, massively collaborative album, Ships. Despite the album’s name, the album is not actually a best of album, but instead the name refers to the players Daniel has on this album, all musical members of the county of Gloucester in New Jersey. While in the past Daniel has played with his band composed mainly of family members, and the occasional honorary family member (Sufjan Stevens is one such member who makes an appearance on this album), this time around half the family is not present (wife and sisters still appear), but instead his neighboring musicians and one Jens Lekman join Daniel. While Ships was excessively arranged with a menagerie of different instruments and players, this new effort seems to find Daniel holding back a little, and perhaps even attempting to find a balance between his more outsider experimental tendencies and a more traditionally straightforward folk and rock sound. The outcome retains a lot of the innocence Daniel has come to be associated with, along with his cheeky, often religious lyrics and mix of both jubilant and somber mood.
The albums opener “Complimentary Dismemberment Insurance” has Daniel proclaim he is “opening up the book of Daniel” setting the stage for the album as consciously autobiographical, while trying to simultaneously lose his own identity to that higher power whose love he doesn’t profess quite so clearly as he once did. “Grow Up” has Daniel singing at the peak of his falsetto “my counselor she says that I have to grow up now, whatever that means. “ Judging by the way the album continues along more conventional, for Daniel at least, lines could be seen as Daniel’s attempt to lose just a bit of his quirkiness in order to find those last few listeners who have yet to hear Danielson yet could greatly benefit from his nearly 20 years of musical creation.
“Lil Norge”, a piano and organ based jingle has Daniel’s wife, Daniel and Jens Lekman conversing together about the way differences in cultures can reflect in our perceptions of one another as potential friends, as put in the question asked by each “can we be friends?”
All together: “Oh yeah”.
Once we have all become friends we could give a listen to the album’s most joyfully silly, in the best way possibly, song, “People’s Partay”. The song has the sound and feel of a great parade, party, and picnic all rolled into one. This song can be seen as the divider between the two major moods of the album, with the quieter comedown songs following till the album’s end.
“Hovering Above That Hill” finds Daniel in new territory, somewhere between Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs and most Akron/Family, with most of the song being filled with psychedelic twinkles and jangles whilst Daniel’s voice floats around in the background.
For returning listeners this album may fall short of their expectations, as Ship’s is a very difficult album to follow up (repeated listens to Denominator Bluise sure push this album closer though), but I’m sure these listeners will find with time having anything more by Daniel Smith to listen to be a blessing. There are few artists working in music today who have such a singularly unique musical perspective, and even fewer who have managed to stay relevant for any major length of time. Daniel Smith just may have tapped into a source of endless creativity through means shunned by most other contemporaries. If that’s the case, well, thank god for Daniel Smith.