Emanating from the creative hub of Wellington, New Zealand, Sheep, Dog & Wolf (aka Daniel McBride) has blessed us with ten sonically cluttered yet amazing tracks that genuinely challenge categorisation. Without any exterior facts, the album is mindblowing enough. But when you factor every aspect of the album from writing to production was executed solely by a twenty year old in his bedroom/basement then you know you have something truly exceptional on your hands.
With it’s jazz drum intro and subsequent frantic instrumentation, opening number ‘Breathe‘ conjures up images of a bustling seven piece ensemble huddled around an eight track. This ruse is assisted by the multi layered vocals as we are lead into the unorthodox inflections of ‘Glare‘. Here McBride shows off his impressive falsetto for the first time, perhaps unveiling a little bit of inner Bon Iver. This is followed by the gentle brushes and acoustic strum of ‘Problems/Canvas’, possibly the most “normal” song on the record.
The weirdness ascends as the album progresses. ‘Fades‘ features verbose vocals over a straight up marching band beat before ‘Ablutophobia‘ tackles the seldom addressed fear of washing (look it up). ‘Guaranteed Defective‘ manages to protrude ever so slightly above the rest to emerge as album highlight. When McBride sings “from the feet up to the head down I’m guarenteed to break” over the albums most aggressive drums and incongruous whistles one is left simultaneously impressed and confused.
Every now and then a record comes along that breaks us free from the shackles of complacency. Belying his tender age, Daniel McBride has created a curious hybrid of lo-fi jazz folk that challenges as much as pleasures the listener. It is an album that reveals more and more of itself after several listens, tightening it’s grip on you with each completion. He could hang up his guitar right now and leave us with something special but the fact he is really just warming up is downright scary.