The last thing that could be said about The Daredevil Christopher Wright is that they are too wedded to one sound. The Nature of Things, their second full-length, weaves traces of Simon & Garfunkel (the opener, “I & Thou”), Fleet Foxes (“Blood Brother”), and a kind of twee, Belle and Sebastian flavor (“Andrew the Wanderer”). One could argue that all three of those groups share something in common, but they also represent different eras. The Daredevil Christopher Wright distills them all and updates the older sounds for a new decade, one in which folk and baroque pop sometimes struggle to be heard amidst the dubstep.
While they certainly owe something to those who came before, let’s not accuse them of being too derivative—the Daredevils have got something all their own. These are three boys from Eau Claire, WI that we’re talking about, and while this is not a town that has ever topped anyone’s must-visit list, it did spawn Bon Iver. Something in the water, as they say. The Daredevils favor mellow guitars and bells, and while they might lull you to sleep, they’ll have you humming along before you drift off.
Many of the tracks are sparse, relying more on the vocals of brothers Jon and Jason Sunde than anything else. There’s some melancholy here—“San Francisco Bay”, for example, reads like a minimalist guitar postcard to that fog-shrouded city. “Concrete hipsters and second-hand clothes,” they sing, and you can’t quite tell if they’re passing judgment or merely making observations. “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” offers a change of pace in that it has a beat, but the choral-style lyrics are mostly unintelligible. Still, though, it offers a kind of cheery foreboding, a quality that seems uniquely Midwestern.
The high point of the album is undoubtedly “The Animal of Choice”, a playful six-minute song that only gets old in the last 60 seconds or so. It features a liveliness that the rest of the album sometimes lacks, highlighting a man’s connection to his wilder side. “Maybe the animal of choice is the choice to be the animal,” one of the Sunde brothers sings, and before you can figure out what this means, they’ve already whisked you off to the next verse. This could be a flaw of the album as a whole: form over function. Oh well. It’s catchy.
Essential Tracks: “Blood Brother”, “San Francisco Bay”, and “The Animal of Choice”