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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Mountain Goats’ latest not easy, but rewarding”

    Mountain Goats latest  not easy, but rewarding

    In the newest release from indie-folk band The Mountain Goats, singer and songwriter John Darnielle has not given listeners an easy album to enjoy. The band’s 17th studio album is a layered and lyric musical hologram, filled with honesty, pain, and … the Bible?

    Every song in the album, called The Life of the World To Come, is titled with the verse form the Christian Bible that inspired it. It’s just another element of maybe-inspired, maybe-crazy creativity from the prolific Darnielle, who started the band by setting his poetry to words.

    From a musical perspective, the record is delicate and almost gentle. The classically lo-fi Goats use simple acoustic guitars and Darnielle’s sharp voice on most of the songs, adding only drums and perhaps a cello on the more elaborate selections. The snarling “”Psalm 40:2″” is a high-powered punch to a grouping of songs that is almost entirely subtle. “”We … slept like infants in the burning fuselage of my days,”” Darnielle spits in this uncommonly rock-like track, but his customarily vague lyrics keep listeners from knowing quite what he means by that harrowing image.

    This is a solid and enjoyable selection if only listening to the music, but it is the uncommon creative choices and Darnielle’s beautiful lyrics that make this a real The Mountain Goats album. The songwriter says he was inspired by personal losses he experienced in the past few years and turned to the religious text because he is “”Christ-haunted,”” more than Christ-following or -worshipping.

    The songs are blatantly but not bluntly about very difficult topics: regret, relationships, redemption, cancer, chemotherapy, death and faith. Though he has devoted every track listing on his album to pieces of the Bible, Darnielle’s skepticism with religiosity is obvious in every song. He often sneers classic Christian epithets about eternal love in what is obvious satire, but his faith is obviously complex and nuanced in a deeply relatable way.

    Songs are often more powerful if the musician was emotionally compelled to write them. In latest album, The Life of the World to Come, it does sound like Darnielle had to write these songs and that making this album was in some way therapeutic to him. It is a deeply personal grouping of songs, almost sacrificing the art to be so close to his experience. “”Matthew 25:21″” is a heartbreaking acoustic elegy that is more emotional than customary or even comfortable. Despite the near-melodrama, this direct account of someone the narrator cares about dying of cancer is moving and lovely.

    It’s not easy to tell exactly what Darnielle is singing about. It often feels like he is a man with beautifully expressed pain who, coincidentally, has a band — he certainly does not seem to make any concessions for the listener. The confusing titles, the minor keys, the layered language and the personal nature of the songs make it hard to make certain sense of what The Mountain Goats are going for.

    Of course, you don’t listen to The Mountain Goats because you want a power ballad. You listen to The Mountain Goats because you want music that challenges you, and this new album does that like few before. This record is elegant, elegiac, and, yes, a little tricky — but it’s all the better for it.

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