Danielson

The Best of Gloucester County

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Released five years after 2006’s well-received Ships, Daniel Smith's Best of Gloucester County finds the Danielson Famile in a bit of disarray. While sisters Megan and Rachel and Smith's wife Erin all make appearances, the bulk of the “Famile” has fled the nest, but adding four new members (Jens Lekman and longtime Danielson staple Sufjan Stevens appear as well) has done little to tarnish Smith's signature blend of art school indie pop and freak folk Sunday school gospel. While Best of Gloucester County (named for the New Jersey province that serves as the members’ stomping grounds) may feel a bit more settled than previous outings, the complacencies of adulthood, as filtered through Smith's manic croon, are hardly destined for commercial airplay. Closer in tone to 2004’s Brother Is to Son but with Ships' loftier (but still D.I.Y.) production, Gloucester County's opening cut, “Complimentary Dismemberment Insurance,” sets the tone with a straightforward blast of Neil Young-meets-Frank Black folk-rock, in which Smith delivers some his most evenhanded vocals in years. “The Day Is a Loaf” and “Grow Up” follow similar suit, but overly precious cuts like “Lil Norge” and “People’s Partay” come away feeling more uncomfortable than whimsical. Still, a middle-of-the-road Danielson Famile/Danielson/Brother Danielson album is hardly a disappointment, as Smith has always been the sole proprietor of his niche, and with each new collection can rewrite the rules however he sees fit. If anything, Gloucester County proves that Smith is willing to let his unique style mature, which may at some point provide some insight into one of the underground’s most elusive personalities.

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