I am 22 years old and working a shift in a basement record shop in Toronto, eagerly awaiting my turn to pick the next store-play record.
Endtroducing is still in high rotation on my home player, Kid Koala and Beth Gibbons on repeat in the discman. Dylan and Cohen fill the emotional gaps left by the stylized drum and string sounds of my potential choices. One track from the end of the currently spinning Smog LP, I spy my choice. The new Tricky has arrived that morning,
and I am hell-bent on converting the other ears in the room to his grimy, London trip-hop.
In front of the player, I’m greeted by Nathan. He is the veteran of the shop, the authority. In a world before the rise of the music blog, his opinions reign supreme.
N: What’s that?
Me: The new Tricky, The Wire reviewed it this month.
This factoid does not compel him.
Me: I met him at the Opera House. He was really nice actually.
N: LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING.
Nathan has had a falafel for lunch. Angry cilantro blows towards me.
N: DO YOU WANT TO HEAR SOMETHING? LIKE SOMETHING REAL, DO YOU WANT TO
HEAR SOMETHING REAL?
He is outraged and grave. I defer.
N: GIVE ME THAT.
He discards it, breaking the case. He pulls out a colourful sleeve from below the counter. I don’t recognize it.
N: Please just listen to this.
It is the Danielson Familly, and nothing will ever be the same.
Our time at Pop Montreal is brief and surreal. I am in awe of Daniel and his wife Elin. His touring band is practiced and ready for adventure, and we shoot in one of the iconic Montreal alleyways, and Josh’s bass tears through the cigarette pack amp we’ve provided. Daniel is in fine form, his voice powerful and in control of its complex melodies.
We stop at a church, and I only later do I recognize the obvious correlation. This is the aspect of Daniel’s music that is most bewildering. His songs are deeply faithful, full of a belief that most of his listeners lack and even scorn. The music, though, endures in spite of and because of its message. For Daniel, faith is necessary to imbue his songs with a great power. For the listener, a lack of that very same faith provides the space within which those songs can be appreciated.
Recordings complete, goodbyes exchanged, we part ways at the hotel, and I head north towards the bend that leads home, two miles on foot and at the end of a circle.