taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment


— BrotherStranger

When it comes to the expression of an idea, Greensboro songwriter Daniel Levi Goans leaves nothing to brevity. His second album proper, entitled BrotherStranger, takes its time developing formidable narratives amidst carefully wrought melodies that can tickle like a whisper in the ear and bellow like a church bell. At times besting seven minutes, many of the songs on BrotherStranger infer an almost celestial deliberateness. The restless piano melody that introduces album opener “Albatross” pushes forward like a tributary toward a confluence for an entire minute before Goans paints a first-person landscape in watercolored spiritual symbolism over the next six. At its core it’s an album of spiritual pronouncement and inquest, sung in a contemplative and elegiac voice like Bob Dylan on “Every Grain of Sand.” “I hear bells/ closer than my skin” he sings in the song’s refrain, suggesting a reticent peace accomplished simply via the song itself. Some are more clear-cut in their meaning. “Gates of Heaven” engages direct biblical references as a counterbalance to Goans’ ambiguous inner struggle. Not merely because of the span of the songs, but the recordings themselves possesses a vastness possibly derived from being recorded inside an old library that affords ample breathing room to the sometimes complex instrumentation. The title track employs a disparate harmony between Goans and vocalist Lauren Plank amidst a ghostly pedal steel and thorny acoustic strumming that leaves each element still feeling considered and weighty. This album’s most obvious flaw, however, is that its pacing can sometimes outstretch the listener’s patience. By the time the nearly 11-minute “Family Name” and its two-minute hidden melody have concluded, instantly recalling a most affecting moment in the album can be a challenge because there’s simply so much to absorb. It makes another listen almost required, but really, that’s never a bad thing.


Daniel Levi Goans will perform in support of Lowry and Monarchs at the Garage Friday night.