David Karsten Daniels Sharp Teeth

[Fat Cat; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie rock, folk-pop
Others: Little Wings, 12Rods, Maestro Echoplex

The sweet nothings whispered during “The Dream Before the Ring that Woke Me” aptly introduces Sharp Teeth and its harmonious blend of substance in its most archaic form. Bits of minimalist folk, orchestral flourishes, and overwrought pop meld into the perfect sampler of sounds and melodies that stretch over the duration of Sharp Teeth’s various peaks and valleys. Of course, it’ll be hard to discover the marriage of pop and rock if you can’t skip past the opener.

Moving away from his safety net of four-track wizardry, David Karsten Daniels has found his voice among the sounds of bedroom folk, ragtime, and strings. Daniels begins to dig deep into the themes of modern Americana. “American Pastime” rehashes a happier time by relying on baseball and war metaphors to dissect the highs and lows of love. Again, no matter how clichéd baseball and war may be in song, Daniels is able to put his own dark spin on the picturesque with the aid of a herky-jerky guitar and piano melody and a skronk outro — an equal mixture of '90s alterna-pop and today’s dankest indie rock. “Jesus and the Devil” explores religious ambiguity as Daniels converses with both entities, coming to the conclusion that both are one and the same. The simplistic man-with-guitar approach may be as old and clichéd as the son of God and his treacherous enemy, but it drives the themes of doubt and enlightenment that stretch throughout Daniels’ strummed melody.

The album’s highlight is the gothic overture “Minnows.” Beginning with a two-minute build-up of maniacal strings and angry guitar strums, the track takes a dramatic turn, launching into a gut-wrenching sing-along. Daniels may not deliver the next great doctrine, but the conviction and energy used to belt out what’s on his chest provides just as much relief to his audience.

Sharp Teeth may rely on the clichés of the heartland, but its unusual analogies and twisted visuals create a differing view of American classics. Preying on the idealized, David Karsten Daniels has deconstructed the myths of Americana with witty and introspective lyrics — pile on the many musical forks in the road and what’s left is an album ready to show you the lesser-known places amidst our pastimes and celebrations.

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