For the last twenty years, John Darnielle has been entertaining and enthralling the world with his profoundly thoughtful lyrics and soulful singing and musical stylings. One of my former coworkers told me that all this would surely end once he had a child and he was quite disappointed last year when I mentioned that Darnielle and his wife had been blessed with a beautiful baby boy. I am here to let you know that his concerns were unfounded because there’s a new Mountain Goats record and it has really shattered all of my expectations.
The album, Transcendental Youth, opens up with a powerful start with a song called Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1. It is a beautiful expression of the way that sometimes people will nearly throw away their lives in an effort to stay alive, so to speak. When asked why people jump off bridges with bungee cords, it is amazing how many say that they want to feel alive.
The production value on this album is incredible. It is a far cry from the stripped down early albums, most of which were recorded on a boombox with just an acoustic guitar — there are tracks on the album that feature a full horn section, like the fantastic song Cry for Judas. Here is the official music video for the song. (In an era where MTV is more well known for playing “reality” programs like “The Jersey Shore”, we need to turn to YouTube for good music videos!) John officially released it as a free and for pay single which you can download here.
The entire album is a group of character sketches, set in Washington State. As a former dweller of Washington State, it makes me happy to hear references to geographical names with which I am familiar, like Snohomish.
You can listen to the full album on Spotify.
I have listened to the full album about a dozen times or so and I find it to be a strong album in The Mountain Goats discography. It has the kind of fortitude that I have found in albums like The Sunset Tree — the kind that you can just play over and over again. I hope that you find yourself listening to it and loving it as well.