The career of Daniel Smith, leader and mastermind of Danielson, has a strange irony: his music promotes spiritual healing, oneness and love, but by and large, his audience has been attracted by its joyous perversity. Smith sings exclusively in a high, squeaky voice, and his twee, disorientingly ad-hoc compositions have the feel of a soundtrack to a puppet show or grade-school musical play - perhaps not entirely inappropriate, given Smith's famous on-stage appearances in a ten-foot homemade tree costume.
His music practically defines "quirk," as brought into the indie mainstream by his acolytes Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective. Danielson's first ten years, leading up 2006's breakthroughShips
, are well-summarized on Secretly Canadian's recent retrospective
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. On it, the yelping, bouncy, enigmatic gems that are Smith's trademark, like "Rubbernecker" and "Thanx to Noah," appear alongside anomalies like the spacious, beautiful near-psychedelia of "Daughters Will Tune You."
One of the set's high points is "Don't You Be The Judge," one of eight live tracks, in which Smith calls on audience members (in his real voice!) to invent and perform a simple rhyme, in a moving apotheosis. Outliers include "Pottymouth," a bizarre anti-profanity dialogue that sounds like something out of a 1950s church youth group. These are the two faces of Danielson's quixotic spiritual quest: the unifying, transportive power of music, and a dude in a tree suit with his hand on the Bible. - Daniel Mee
With Cryptacize and the Mathletes, 8 p.m. tonight at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513.