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Five Unconventional Songs for the Faithful

by Cris



The Friday list comes on during Saturday again. I blame it on the migraine – which has slowly been killing me over the past years. Migraines aside, in this week’s list, we go a bit spiritual (I think)  – since it’s Lent, and something in my Catholic upbringing thinks this is going to be fun.

Today, our featured artists will be ones that have songs that have a Christian bent or have that unique Christian influence. But don’t let that turn you off though – these artists are more than your run-of-the-mill Christian bands. First of all, they don’t sing ska, and second, they produce songs that some of you might think, can’t be related to anything Christian at all. Here now is my top five artists that have answered that calling to spread the good news through music…in their own odd-sounding way –

1. Good News for the Pus Pickers by Danielson

Your eccentric Christian band list would not be complete without including the Danielson Famile on the list. Their unique brand of caterwauling and screechy vocals might make you cringe, but that won’t stop you from listening – it’ll make you curious all the more. They may not be singing praise yous or allelujah’s, yet it’s seeing their whole live act that makes you feel like wanting to go to mass the next day.

A picture above is good ole Daniel Smith himself – the band’s founder, dressed in his tree costume in one of their live shows. If you’re a devout Christian, you might be able to recognize the significance of the nine different fruits on the tree as representing the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, you can always dismiss Bro. Daniel as a complete whack-job. Crazy or not, no-one who’s seen them perform can deny that this is a group who is dedicated to their calling – a calling to spread the good news via their avant garde music. The group originally composed of the Smiths siblings, were raised in a very religious environment – their dad a composer of praise music (some of his work you might even find in your Sunday hymn books). What started out as a thesis project for the eldest Smith sibling evolved into a family band and the indie icons that they are today. To fully appreciate the Danielson sound – I highly recommend watching the documentary "Danielson: A Family Movie" – which to me, is one of the best and most entertaining band documentaries I’ve seen in a while. Check out the end of the trailer where a couple recalls ‘clapping for Jesus’ in one of their concerts and realizing how awkward it was because they were Jewish.

2. Henney Buggy by Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens could be one of the most recognized names in my list – however, not a lot would know about his Christian influences – enough for some to question his sexual preference based on the lyrics of the song ‘To Be Alone With You’, where he sings ‘I’ve never known a man who loved me…’.( which, based on the context of the song and his background, is about Jesus). Sexual preferences aside though, Sufjan is well known for his state-themed albums (Michigan and Illinois) and he’s had a couple of songs featured in TV and movies. One interesting thing to note here is that Sufjan was part of the Danielson Famile himself – even donning the ever-famous nurse costumes that the group wore, while he filled in for other Smith siblings. Sufjan is also in the roster of artists for Sounds Familyre records – a label founded by Daniel Smith.

The song Henny Buggy is a song off from his album The Avalanche which contains outtakes and extras from his ever-popular Illinois album.

3. Earth Outside of Ghost Will Only be Quicksand by Half Handed Cloud

I have no idea what the title of the song means – though if there’s one person that truly knows what it means, it would be John Ringoher – the man behind Half Handed Cloud. Known as a musician that draws inspiration from the Bible, if there’s any guess about the meaning of his songs – it might as well point to something in the Old Testament which is also where the name ‘half-handed cloud’ came from. When not performing his own songs or with Sufjan Stevens as part of the Illinoisemakers – he lives rent-free in Berkeley California, in exchange for his services as a custodian in a church.

4. Sold! To the Nice Rich Man by The Welcome Wagon

To bring a bit of normalcy to your ears, next one the list is a husband and wife duo who performs sweet sounding gospel music. This song was originally performed by Daniel Smith in his own unique Danielson way and gets a more ear-friendly makeover by the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique (a.k.a The Welcome Wagon) in their album Welcome to The Welcome Wagon. The Welcome Wagon belongs to the roster of artists under Sufjan Stevens own label Asthmatic Kitty records (where you can also download the song for free).

5. LuvInIdleness by Ben + Vesper

Ben + Vesper is another husband and wife team – but this time, this one comes from Bro. Daniel Smith’s Sounds Familyre family. LuvInIdleness comes from their latest album LuvInIdleness, and is one of the less quirky sounding songs in their repertoire. Interestingly, their sound, was once described as ‘ a lot like two Disneyfied hyenas, yowling at each other as they strategize and finally corner a zebra’. If you ask me, it’s not all that bad – their music is quite loveable…but I do have a high threshold for the eccentric though.

photo by Kaitlyn Rose