Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The hills are alive...

ARTIST The Mountain Goats
ALBUM The Sunset Tree
RELEASE May 2nd 2005

This is not an album of love songs. John Darnielle’s The Mountain Goats has tried that before. This is an album of suicides, prophets, alcoholic marriages and horrific stepfathers. Darnielle's own stepfather died in December 2003; and shortly afterwards, as the Mountain Goats toured Europe, these new, intensely personal songs started to flow. The presence of his stepfather can be felt throughout the album, launching glasses and screams at his wife on Dance Music, oozing menace asleep on the couch in "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod ?", waiting on the driveway and about to provoke "a cavalcade of anger and fear" in "This Year".

It’s dark but rewarding. Darnielle sings in an unconventional fashion reminiscent of early Sparklehorse and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. He spits out lyrics of seedy apartments, makeshift friendships, cheap substances and unscheduled trips to hospital to uncharacteristically bright melodies. Arrangements are simple guitar/drums/piano but featuring some welcome cello. It’s not manufactured background music, it’s a real person singing about real lives. We need much more like this.

Despite what you might think, The Sunset Tree isn’t a sad record. It’s redemptive. Meditative rather than bitter; hopeful rather than despondent. He’s made it through all the bad stuff and ‘Pale Green Things’ closes the album with shoots of hope as the sleeve notes remind, ‘you are going to make it out of there alive’.

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