David Karsten Daniels’ fourth full-length effort initially sounds like a run-of-the-mill folk record, but don’t be fooled by the name or the quiet nature of Sharp Teeth (Fat Cat). This risk-taking release requires repeated listens in order to capture the carefully produced arrangements that rival Animal Collective for weird, exuberant folk freak-outs.
Many of the nineteen contributors are from the Bu-Hanan collective and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers fame, and they add horns, vocals, and guitars to the southern jazz-twanged orchestral sounds found on Sharp Teeth. Fans of Sufjan Stevens’s religious ponderings and Cat Power’s dark, soul-searching lyrics will appreciate Daniels’ efforts to pull listeners into thinking about their own potential spiritual alienation from the material world.
Like Wooden Wand, Daniels engages in feverous religious rants, but Sharp Teeth relies more on concrete imagery to engage listeners. The brilliantly written song “Jesus and the Devil” uses both figures as metaphors for the spiritual and material words. Daniels expresses doubt in giving up on the material world for an ambiguous spirit (“I saw Jesus walk on walk on water but I could have been wrong/and if I really saw it then I’ll sing him a song/but I got to be sure because the road it is long”).
The only downfall for Daniels is that some may not listen to this record with an open mind because of the recent string of mediocre folk-pop bands that sing about Jesus and friends. Those who listen carefully to Sharp Teeth will be rewarded with an exploration into their own alienation from an increasingly commoditized world.