Dusted Reviews

Br. Danielson - Brother Is To Son

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Br. Danielson

Album: Brother Is To Son

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: May. 27, 2004

Br. Danielson (pronounced "Brother Danielson") is Daniel Smith, the lead yelper for that weirdest of Christian rock acts, the Danielson Familie. Smith is blessed or cursed, depending on your perspective, with probably the most unique voice in pop music right now: it's a little like Pere Ubu's David Thomas ingesting helium while placing his hand on a hot stove. Smith's strained falsetto and oblique but morally charged lyrics make Brother Is To Son just as strange as any Danielson Familie album, even if it mostly lacks Danielson Familie's kitchen-sink instrumentation.

The instrumentation on Brother Is To Son is still one of its most important and distinctive features, however. The absence of electric guitars here obscures and recontextualizes Smith's punk- and indie-rock-based songwriting devices. Smith's acoustic guitar and Sufjan Stevens' banjo are the lead instruments here, which gives Brother Is To Son a down-home feel that's often at odds with the chugging eighth notes and barre chords Smith and Stevens play. The drumming, too, is decidedly rock-based.

Still, Smith's lyrics distance the album from most indie-rock albums. While they're rarely direct and never preachy, they often use Christian imagery, with references to faith, healing, wounds and the like. Even when his lyrics aren't obviously Christian at all, Smith worries about moral issues. Smith takes on American capitalism in "Things Against Stuff," asking, "Which side are you on? / Who loves their stuff? / Our country has let stuff direct it." Brother gets quieter and more introspective as it goes along, however, as more songs are written in the first person.

"Our Givest," one of the louder songs at the beginning of the album, ends with Smith and a choir of his Familie members screaming, "You give gifts beloved love / You give gifts unfailing love!" It's a profoundly weird thing to hear on a rock album, and moments like these create a sort of mystery that is a big reason why the Danielson orbit usually succeeds. Brother Is To Son is like hearing strange and well-crafted ritual music from a secretive religious sect.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Read More

View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Secretly Canadian

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.