released May 25th, 2010

from the album - Pity Dance

from all music

Born in Buffalo, NY, singer/songwriter David Stith spent his formative years surrounded by music. The son of a college wind ensemble/church director and pianist mother with a pair of opera-singing sisters, Stith began his own music career after a long affair with writing, illustration, and graphic design. After meeting and working with Shara Worden of eclectic dream pop outfit My Brightest Diamond upon relocating to New York City, he began writing and recording his own songs, resulting in his independently released debut, Ichabod and Apple. Largely acoustic-based with electronic flourishes, Stith's music eventually caught the ears of Sufjan Stevens, who helped sign the young artist to Asthmatic Kitty Records. The resulting Heavy Ghost arrived in 2009. In 2010 he issued a collection of remixes and alternate versions of his songs as well as some covers in a double album entitled Heavy Ghost.

album review

Most everything about DM Stith's remarkable debut suggests that it's something of an anomaly. Heavy Ghost adheres to few preconceived notions belonging to any one movement or style, but sounds like it could have been influenced by any number of factors just barely out of the range of recognition. The sheer magnetism of this music lies in its subtly skewed intricacies: acoustic guitars strummed in atypical ways, chords carried through slight transmutations in almost hidden rhythmic patterns, and ghostly background voices that come and go unpredictably. Through it all is Stith's delicate, captivating voice, which is somewhere between a more tuneful Devendra Banhart and a less straightforward Sufjan Stevens. Though he has a well-controlled and deliberate vocal cadence, there's also a whimsical nature to the way his beautifully melodic phrases effortlessly weave in and out of the stormy music underneath. It feels almost as if he's singing to the listener as part of a dream, or better yet, to one who is half-asleep and only partially aware of his or her surroundings: these pieces are mysterious and somehow just out of reach, and all the more affective for it. Stith performs a minor miracle in the way he balances the many forces at work here, since the music nearly always feels like it has room to breathe, even when it approaches cacophonous levels. A stately brass melody seamlessly emerges halfway through "Thanksgiving Moon," maintaining a lofty distance from the layer of marimba and other instruments, and providing the perfect counterpoint to his wavering vocals. "Fire of Birds," like many songs here, is outfitted with fleeting orchestral flourishes, pitter-pattering percussion, and a windswept buildup, where he leads a chorus of voices repeatedly singing "We dance like we're all on fire." There's a certain amount of jubilation to the way the line is delivered, but the more he says it, the more disturbing it becomes one of many such pieces of intriguing imagery on Heavy Ghost. Stith creates a consistently pensive, occasionally intense, mood on the album, but it's also loose and highly textured, and ultimately quite moving.

Track Listing

1 Isaac's Song Stith, Stith 1:38
2 Pity Dance Stith, Stith 4:21
3 Creekmouth Stith, Stith 4:09
4 Pigs Stith, Stith 4:53
5 Spirit Parade Stith, Stith 2:23
6 BMB Stith, Stith 2:43
7 Thanksgiving Moon Stith, Stith 3:58
8 Fire of Birds Stith, Stith 5:12
9 Morning Glory Cloud Stith, Stith 3:55
10 GMS Stith, Stith 2:34
11 Braid of Voices Stith, Stith 5:26
12 Wig Stith, Stith 2:34