Daniel Smith has been the linchpin for a number of different similarly-named bands to date, including Danielson Famile, Tri-Danielson, and Br. Danielson. His opening album was simply released under the name Danielson, and he has returned to that moniker with the release of this newest effort Ships. Perhaps the most expansive album yet in terms of collaborative efforts, the album is a downright communal project, with well over 30 people making contributions of some sort.
Contributors on the disc include everyone from several members of both Why? and Deerhoof, John Ringhofer of Half-Handed Cloud, Emil Nikolaisen of Serena Maneesh, and Sufjan Stevens among others. Daniel Smith is still the main vocalist on the release, which is sort of an acquired taste if you've never heard his somewhat nasal, high-pitched singing. "Ship The Majestic Suffix" opens the release and it's pretty clear that things are going to be high-spirited as quiet verses give way to community-style choruses with horns, tons of background vocals, pumping drums, and chimes, culminating in a glorious sustained rollick.
"Cast It At The Setting Sail" is just as jubilant, with glockenspiel, guitars, horns, and more vocals and clattering percussion heaving to and fro like a mini orchestra caught on the deck of a swaying sea vessel. Despite similar in overall construction, "Did I Step On Your Trumpet" might be one of the most successful tracks on the entire album, progressing with an infectious melodic racket and some call and response vocal couplets that pull you closer before the group shakes you down again with a blast of instrumentation.
A whole album of insanely dense pop numbers would probably be a bit much, and Smith keeps things a bit interesting by backing off a bit in places. "When It Comes To You I'm Lazy" is more sparse, with guitars and chimes mingling with simple percussion while Smith backs off a notch on his vocals while "He Who Flattened Your Flame Is Getting Torched" is a jazz-inflected shuffle that brings some swaggering piano into the mix. The album closes with "Five Stars And Two Thumbs Up," one of the most hilarious meta-responses I've heard in some time as Smith offers up thanks and well-wishes to the listener (or critics, based on the song title) with a warm backing chorus and a blowout flourish of an ending that leaves a smile on your face. Something like the Polyphonic Spree might sound if they decided to freak out a bit more, Danielson is a whole load of friends getting together under the banner of having a good time and creating some enjoyable music.