Of all the happy musical accidents that have occurred over the past couple years—Bon Iver’s fantastic For Emma included—DM Stith’s arrival may turn out to be the biggest “eureka” moment of them all. Stith is a shy guy of conflicted Christian stock, a graphic designer by trade whose previous claim to music fame was owning the computer on which My Brightest Diamond recorded its debut. Yet Heavy Ghost, Stith’s debut, is nothing short of a masterpiece of mood and texture, an album that sounds as if it was devised in equal parts by a seasoned composer and an inspired amateur.
It’s easiest to think of DM Stith as Sufjan Stevens’ dark shadow—where the latter prefers bright chamber pop and content inspired by external forces (i.e. states), Stith orchestrates lush, pitch-dark soundscapes that writhe under his religion-provoked introversion. “Pity Dance” is a rolling epic composed of piano, viola, lap steel, and odd bits. “Creekmouth” is a spooky vocal-driven spiritual that teeters atop an eerie image: “A thousand people cling to Bibles / To powdered babies and leather Bibles.” “Pigs” finds Stith’s soulful crooning channeling Nina Simone, while on “Spirit Parade,” his Nina becomes Badu-like wails amid a whirlwind of percussion. Heavy Ghost’s second half is more reserved, but even in its sparest moments, the album excels—Stith’s voice alone could carry a hundred worse albums with ease, and his ear for arrangement is nothing short of divine.