Music Reviews

Danielson Famile

A Prayer For Every Hour

Secretly Canadian

Danielson Famile – that is, Daniel Smith with siblings – recorded this as part of his senior thesis at Rutgers University back in 1994, and it was originally released the following year. Since then, there have been other albums with his family, as well as some solo stuff and albums with yet another band. Everything that’s come since, though, is rooted in this first release, the oh-so weird A Prayer For Every Hour.

Like nothing you’ve ever heard before, or even could have imagined hearing, Danielson Famile is lo-fi bedroom trash-pop that revels in the incidental and the casual, finding hope and trust in confusion and fear, challenging every conception to reach for the truth. Musically, the album is a deconstruction of modern-day pop music, to the extent that what is left is often no more than some guitar strumming and a high-pitched voice, and even those are constantly threatening to fall apart. Think an avant garde, beaten up, minimalist, early-day Black Francis listening to The Carter Family, Captain Beefheart, and Arthur Lee while trying to dislocate any sense of reason or rhyme, and you’re halfway there.

A Christian band, Danielson Famile are something completely different altogether. You don’t come here for gospel hymns or preaching, this music is full of doubt and mistrust, of hate and angst, of blasphemy and praise. This is so deeply personal that it’s hard to even grasp what’s going on – musically and lyrically – as if Daniel Smith’s anguished screams are something entirely private, something we’re overhearing but really shouldn’t.

Smith both ridicules and questions his relationship with God, and so his faith, it seems, comes out all the stronger in the end. “I spoke to God and told him I screwed up again. He said, ‘Dan, give me 10 pushups.’ I said ‘for you I’ll do 1000’,” he sings, and that’s the closest this album comes to an unambiguous praise. An intense listening experience, this is an album of both truly captivating as well as deeply distressing music.

This re-release also comes with an enhanced bonus disc, which includes a splendid listening instruction for the album, plus a couple of live tracks from the band’s first-ever performance and a music video.

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