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Kyle

The Mountain Goats

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I don't know if there is any Mountain Goats fans out there. Head Goat John Darnielle is an outstanding songwriter but his love it or hate it vocals seem to polarize any potential audience. I tend to lean toward the later but his undeniable talents as a writer force me to at least pay attention.

His latest is The Life of the World to Come is a Biblical concept album of sorts. Each of the 12 songs are titled and structured around a Bible verse. Here is what he has to say about it:

"I guess the obvious question is going to be: 'John, have you had some sort of religious awakening?' and while I guess lots of people might want to be coy about answering that, that's never really been my style, so: no. It's not like that. It's not some heavy-narrative-distance deal either, though, and it's not a screed. It's twelve new songs: twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of. More than that I'd want to wait to say until some people have heard it, which won't be long. Will there be more news soon, quite soon? Like, next week, even? Oh yes there will!"

The tracklisting according to Pitchfork:

01 1 Samuel 15:23

02 Psalms 40:2

03 Genesis 3:23

04 Philippians 3:20-21

05 Hebrews 11:40

06 Genesis 30:3

07 Romans 10:9

08 1 John 4:16

09 Matthew 25:21

10 Deuteronomy 2:10

11 Isaiah 45:23

12 Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace

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Love it! I've always said they were a religious band. I wrote a review of their last record for Beliefnet.

Of course, one of Darnielle's best-known songs ("The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton") includes the stirring refrain, "Hail, Satan. Hail, Hail!" He also nominates "The Killers" for a great band name, which it is. At the time (2002) it hadn't been claimed yet.

That said, I love Darnielle, weird voice and weird theology and all. His songs are consistently thoughtful and well-written. I'll look forward to the new album with great interest.

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Not to mention he made a record called "Satanic Messiah." But still.

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Has anyone heard the new album? I'm anxious to hear it myself.

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Maybe someone has gotten an advance, but it doesn't come out until October I think.

If you follow the Pitchfork link there is an mp3 for one of the songs. I've downloaded but haven't listened yet.

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Just got the advance and am on "Psalms 40:2" -- loving it. Darnielle yelling in a spooky way over his trademark relentless strumming, "he has raised me from the pi t / and he will set me high!"

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The Mountain Goats are the best.

Darnielle has a really interesting personal story--a lapsed catholic, but he was also practicing some form of hinduism for a while there. But he loves his redemption narratives, even when they're encoded in the form of minor characters from Nintendo games, as in "Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle"

This is a quite touching piece in NY magazine: http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/features/55031/

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The Mountain Goats are the best.

Darnielle has a really interesting personal story--a lapsed catholic, but he was also practicing some form of hinduism for a while there. But he loves his redemption narratives, even when they're encoded in the form of minor characters from Nintendo games, as in "Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle"

This is a quite touching piece in NY magazine: http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/features/55031/

I LOVE THAT SONG!!! It's heartbreaking.

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In a coffee shop writing my review of this, suddenly overcome by emotion upon realizing that "1 John 4:16" is sung from the perspective of a Christian being executed by lion.

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His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

-- Matthew 25:21

The prolific John Darnielle and his revolving cast of bandmates, collectively known as The Mountain Goats, are about to release a new album called The Life of the World to Come. As with all Mountain Goats albums, this one is a lo-fi indie folk hootenanny, not too concerned with technical instrumental prowess or vocal pitch. And like the others, it's pretty great.

Darnielle's always been a literate songwriter, and this time the entire album is based on impressions from a book; in this case, the Bible. Every song is Darnielle's idiosyncratic take on a Bible verse or verses. Representative titles include "1 Samuel 15:23," "Hebrews 11:40," and "Matthew 25:21." This being a Mountain Goats album, you won't hear those verses quoted in the lyrics. Darnielle is too quirky and too introspective to write about anything but himself. But there is a generosity and an open-heartedness in his scriptural musings that is astonishing. What we have here is a musical lectio divina; the Word interacting with a life that is fully cognizant of the pain and suffering of others; and a life interacting with the Word. It's the farthest thing removed from a rote CCM Scripture Quote fest:

They'd hooked you up to a Fentanyl drip

To mitigate the pain a little bit

I flew in from Pennsylvania

When I heard the hour was coming fast

And I docked in Santa Barbara

Tried to brace myself

But you can't brace yourself when the time comes

You just have to roll with the blast

And I'm an eighteen wheeler headed down the interstate

And my brakes are gonna give, and I won't know 'til it's too late

Tires screaming when I lose control

Try not to hurt too many people when I roll

Find the Harbor freeway and head south

Real tired, head kind of light

I found Telegraph Road

I'd only seen the name on envelopes

Found the parking lot and turned right

I felt all the details carving out space in my head

Tropicana's on the walkway, neon red

Between the pain and the pills, trying to hold it at bay

Stands a traveler going somewhere far away

And I am an airplane, tumbling wing over wing

Trying to listen to my instruments, they don't say anything

People screaming when the engines quit

I hope we're all in crash position when we hit

And then came to your bedside

And as it turns out I'm not ready

And as though you were speaking through a thick haze

You said hello to me

We all stood there around you

Happy to hear you speak

The last of something bright burning

Still burning beyond the cancer and the chemotherapy

And you were a presence full of light upon this earth

And I am a witness to your life and to its worth

It's three days later when I get the call

And there's nobody around to break my fall

That one's called "Matthew 25:21," and the biblical reference is quoted at the beginning of this post. It makes me want to weep and gnash my teeth and bang my head against the wall, which can be problematic when you're listening over iPod earbuds, and there's a co-worker on the other side of the cubicle wall. But it's great because of the little details, because Darnielle understands that cancer is always particular and personal, that it involves real people with real names and faces, and with real friends and family members they leave behind. Maybe I react the way I do because I know too many people right now who are facing that kind of fate. But that's why the song succeeds so well. We all have those stories. Fucking cancer. Darnielle's story is our story, too, but it's magnificent and worthwhile because the life he celebrates was a presence and a light in a specific time, in a specific place, known and communicated by a guy with a wobbly tenor and a tentative guitar technique and a hole in his big, big heart.

This is a fabulous album, and a profoundly Christian one, although I suspect the artist might deny the charge. That's okay. I'm not God, nor do I play Him on the internets, but I'll still give him a hearty "Well done, good and faithful servant."

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Darnielle is too quirky and too introspective to write about anything but himself.

I like the album very much, but I think I totally disagree about this -- I think most of the songs do explore connections between people's personal narratives and these scripture passages, but I think they succeed on the same terms that the best short stories succeed on, fictions full of true and real life-detail,s rather than autobiography

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Darnielle is too quirky and too introspective to write about anything but himself.

I like the album very much, but I think I totally disagree about this -- I think most of the songs do explore connections between people's personal narratives and these scripture passages, but I think they succeed on the same terms that the best short stories succeed on, fictions full of true and real life-detail,s rather than autobiography

Yeah, that was poorly worded, and doesn't really convey what I meant to convey. Although I think the song I quoted ("Matthew 25:21") is autobiographical (Darnielle has said as much), I don't think it's true of the entire album. What I meant to do, and what I'll try to do now, is contrast the typically straightforward CCM approach of simply singing Scripture, with Darnielle's much more oblique approach of writing stories, and letting the scriptural titles comment on those stories, and the stories comment on the scriptural references. I think he does the latter quite masterfully.

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I am very excited about this record.

Although, I don't think TMG have done anything really lo-fi since the first album with 4AD.

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I'd agree this album isn't really lo-fi (fine by me, I prefer my fi to be kicked up a notch), although it does have a certain sparse nakedness compared to the last couple of MGs records.

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a tidbit you may enjoy:

darnielle is a big fan of amy grant. i think he said somewhere that "angels watching over me" is his ringtone

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I love The Mountain Goats, and this album really is taking me by surprise. I love when artists do something like this, where they hint at their faith/beliefs, and then just come right out with it like it's completely natural.

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There are *two* bonus tracks for the album: "Enoch 18:14" is on iTunes, and "Proverbs 6:27" is on Amazon.

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The album is available for streaming on Colbertnation.com.

They played a new song called Psalm 40:2 on the October 6th show of The Colbert Report. Stephen also interviewed John Darnielle and asked him about the name of the band and some of his lyrics. For those interested, the show can be found at the link above.

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That was pretty awesome.

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There's a whole bonus album released called "The Life of the World in Flux." It's b-sides and three songs that aren't on the real full-length.

Find it, and listen to Daniel 12:8.

"Feel the fear in my chest all day. Praise You anyway."

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Seriously! Darnielle hath wrought a sneaky apocrypha! I did not see this coming, certainly heard nothing from 4AD about it. Sneaky!

Edited by Joel

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Yep, I only saw the CD version available in the UK, and that is WAY too much for me to pay. That rhymed, weird.

Anyway, I don't pay for mp3s so it's going to be a doozy to find on an actual format for a semi-affordable price.

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yeah -- yesterday i scoured edmonton and found nothing. i suppose it's only available from 4ad?

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