The Mountain Goats
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Mountain Goats main man John Darnielle is regarded as such a lyrical force that he is presently playing shows alongside the likes of Dave Eggers and Sarah Vowell. He’s so well-regarded that even similarly well-regarded peers like John Vanderslice seek him out for writing pow-wows. The sparse indie-folk of Get Lonely finds him turning yet some more memorable phrases, although it also seems that Darnielle is so focused on his storytelling that he’s neglecting to write interesting music to accompany it. Minimal to a fault, Get Lonely is an album of aching intimacy and focused craftsmanship, but ultimately also of modest effect.
The protagonist of Get Lonely has been set adrift, and we follow him through some well-painted vignettes of wandering, like the string-enhanced “Moon Over Goldsboro.” He comes home to an empty house, which leads to choruses like “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do without you?” (“Woke Up New”) and “Can’t get you / Out of my head / Lost without you / Half dead” (“Half Dead”). For longtime fans who have journeyed with Darnielle through denser or more poetic lyrical terrain, this directness may be quite arresting. Even for newcomers, “Half Dead” surely leaves one of the most indelible impressions of all the songs on the album. The lyrical heartbreak is framed against a backdrop so happy and jaunty that it sounds sarcastic, like a forced smile. On the other hand, it’s also understandable if newcomers, barraged with blogger hype about how they have to compare Darnielle to Milton and Yeats instead of his musical contemporaries, take a look at those lines and say, “Really? That’s it?”
Exercising patience with Get Lonely will be rewarded, as it’s an album of subtle shading and can easily slip unassumingly into the background. There are some deftly placed flourishes of heavy-hearted cello and delicate percussion, and even a downright playful skip-and-crash of horns, organ and drums on “If You See Light.” Unfortunately, those moments, like the beguiling guitar line in “Cobra Tattoo” or the cinematic strings of “Maybe Sprout Wings,” are surrounded by material that too often foregoes memorable melody and winds up lacking sustenance.
The Mountain Goats - Live - March 11, 2007
More by this writer:
John Vanderslice - Interview
Roman Candle - The Wee Hours Revue
Grant-Lee Phillips - Interview
Dr. Octagon - The Return of Dr. Octagon