Friday, February 29, 2008

heretic pride by the mountain goats

The Mountain Goats, in their many and sundry forms, have recorded and released more music than I ever would have thought humanly possible. From John Darnielle's earliest lo-fi albums, recorded on a boom box with just him, his guitar and his urging voice, to his more recent, lusher works produced by John Vanderslice, everything he's done has been captivating, beautiful, heart-wrenching, intriguing, and/or hilarious.

With the release of Heretic Pride, there are bound to be those who lament the loss of the lo-fi, DIY scratchiness that was the Mountain Goats' endearing trademark for so long –- the new album is the richest yet, what with the string arrangements and the crisp sounds of high-hats and harmonies that are actually harmonic, rather than endearingly off key. But Darnielle is still singing about his own self-destruction, doomed relationships, the impending demise of everyone and everything, heavy metal, and biographies of people you've never heard of, backed by simple yet arresting melodies, and packed with quirky turns of phrase sung with an urgent voice that defies you to ignore him. Which is why we fell in love with him in the first place. And besides, Sarah and Rachel are back (though bass duties are still being fulfilled by the lovely and talented Peter Hughes), and who can complain about that?

Darnielle is a storyteller, and many of his stories are based on fact; I find myself spending a couple of hours on Wikipedia every time I get my hands on a Mountain Goats album1. I'm a big enough geek to find this educational process a big draw to the music. I wouldn't want to take the fact-finding process away from anyone, but I can tell you that there are a lot of interesting monsters in Heretic Pride, none of which are in "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature".

The Mountain Goats are touring, and you should see them. Tickets won't cost a lot, and he might sing Swedish pop songs from the early 90s!2

mp3: "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature" by the Mountain Goats, from Heretic Pride
mp3: "Golden Boy" by the Mountain Goats, from Ghana

1. I've managed to gather something around 25 albums and EPs – I told you he's prolific.
2. Mr. Darnielle doesn't usually look this much like Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins. But I sincerely hope that he dances like this for us next week at the Troub, even though it would probably make the universe collapse under the weight of his awesomeness.

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