Danielson: a Family Movie (review)

After missing a few showings in SF, I finally saw Danielson: A Family Movie, which finally came out on DVD a couple weeks ago.

I’d heard of them for a couple years and I saw Danielson last summer, so I knew they were a bit nuts. Describing their recorded sound is hard enough, but their live sound is even one step up the ladder. I can’t think of better words (which is not to say there aren’t better words) to describe the band than my previous review. “Danielson is sort of a quirky indie pop folk band with epileptic fits of craziness in the middle of their songs.” I later added

This band is just crazy. Quirky is probably a better term. They have these softer or sweeter parts to their songs interspersed with these intense, high-energy parts with often high-pitched vocals. It’s almost disorienting to see them play. Daniel Smith, the leader of the group, has this way of singing that’s half in falsetto, but the parts of his mouth and throat that he uses to sing aren’t normally used by people unless they’re imitating a cat meowing. His two sister and the keyboard player, Evan, all sing with such energy that it seems like they’re yelling into the mics.

Danielson – Did I Step on Your Trumpet? (mp3)

That gives you some taste for the band. Daniel Smith and the bands he’s involve with have a bit of an odd history. They started as a thesis project for Daniel’s art degree. They were first released on Tooth and Nail but weren’t really accepted by the “Christian Music” community. They gained some ground as an “outsider” art/ music within the “secular” music world. This film picks up after they’ve gotten some press, but still have room to grow.

It’s a film about a band getting bigger. It’s about a band of Christians (the awkward phrasing to avoid “Christian band”) in the indie rock world. It’s about friends and family being pulled in different directions. It’s about an artist trying to grow. It’s an interesting film, with a good story. I liked it.

There’s a lot of Sufjan in it. He was hanging out with the Smith’s when it was being filmed. I like Sufjan and it’s cool to seem him just talking and hanging out and playing whiffle ball. However, I think the one big misstep in the film is a five minute diversion talking about Sufjan’s big rise to fame. It feels like it was inserted afterwards to try to take advantage of Suf’s popularity.

Overall, good stuff. Put it in your netflix queue already!



2 Responses to “Danielson: a Family Movie (review)”

  1. […] A few weeks ago I reviewed JL Aronson’s film Danielson: A Family Movie, which finally came out on DVD. […]

  2. […] has Danielson: a Family Movie available to stream in its entirety for one week only. I reviewed the movie when it first hit DVD (and interviewed the director) and I found the movie pretty fascinating. That’s certainly one […]

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