Sounds like … a screechier Sufjan Stevens, mixing the '60s arty folk/pop of Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, or Captain Beefheart with the modern alternative sensibilities of Polyphonic Spree, Super Furry Animals, and Flaming Lips.

At a glance … there are moments of brilliance with the unique musical vision, creative arrangements, and interesting lyricism, but Ships is ultimately too weird and inaccessible for the average listener unprepared for Danielson's experimental ramblings

The mounting popularity and critical acclaim of Sufjan Stevens in the last year has helped pave the way for other alternative folk and "freak folk" acts to gain acceptance, so it's only fitting that Danielson (formerly Danielson Famile) should now find greater exposure as the group that helped birth Stevens' career. At the creative core is Daniel Smith, surrounded by an ever-changing talent pool of family and friends. Ships is his seventh release in a career that started in 1995 as a senior thesis project at Rutgers University, and features his wife, siblings, and father, as well as Stevens, John Ringhofer (Half-handed Cloud), and a long list of other artistic contributors.

For those who think Stevens is too weird, Danielson is synonymous with "cult following" and "acquired taste." Both share a reputation for goofy costumes onstage and convention defying arrangements that mesh acoustic guitars and drums with all manner of horns, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Adding to Danielson's mystique is Smith's strained vocal quality, which sometimes recalls early Peter Gabriel and Mickey Mouse; his screechy falsetto in "Bloodbook on the Halfshell" is enough to try anyone's patience.

It's a sound that's equally brilliant and insane—children's ...

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Our Rating
3½ Stars - Good
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Release Date
May 9, 2006
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