Daniel Smith is a missionary of literary metaphors, falsetto vocals, and strange little uniforms. If that sounds weird, the description is not nearly as idiosyncratic as the music of his thesis-project-turned-band deserves. Smith -- and lately, a team so large that the liner notes actually credit a project manager -- squeaks out avant-folk through an unabashedly Christian worldview, set to experimental song structures. After seven releases, Smith is finally getting recognition -- thanks in no small part to the success of his protégé Sufjan Stevens -- that rivals the magnitude of the passion with which he approaches his music and performances.
Live, the Famile's affairs are nothing short of a revelation. While Smith sings through his tree costume, his brothers and sisters make merry with their glockenspiels and oboes, wearing outfits that look vaguely like cruise-ship attire. In an atmosphere charged with inspiration, performers and audience members alike teem with feelings of exultation and lightheartedness. It isn't secular or spiritual -- just wonderfully musical.