The Mountain Goats: Transcendental Youth – album review

The Mountain Goats: Transcendental Youth (Merge/Tomlab)
Out: 8th October

The Mountain Goats release their fourteenth album. A dark collection of tales of tenuously connected outsiders living in Washington state which stands alongside their best and may become a future classic.

John Darnielle is a man who knows how to examine the darker side of life. Throughout the last two decades he has released stacks of albums which have carefully probed the bloody, the brutal and the broken. His tales have ranged from the fantastical to the autobiographical and sometimes merging in between.

Transcendental Youth is Darnielle’s fourteenth release under the Mountain Goats moniker and is quite simply, one of his finest. Following on just a year and a half from 2011’s All Eternals Deck and written in the midst of a tour and the birth of his first child. The latter seems to have motivated the Indiana born singer to vehemently hold onto, if not thrust himself deep into the psychological darkness which permeates his lyrics. As he stated himself in a recent post about the new record:

“I kept writing through the summer, and in August the baby was born and I’d cradle him in my left arm while writing melodies at the piano with my right, and I said, let Osiris the keeper of the gates be my witness, other songwriters may go soft when they get to be parents but I am going to keep going all the way down into the inner darkness, it will set a good example for the baby, and besides, what am I going to do, suddenly start writing songs about cute things instead of songs about how to wrest cries of triumph from the screaming places? Please. May the baby grow up to spit in my face if I should pose that hard.”

Musically this is quite possibly the most polished Mountain Goats album to date. It retains all of the raw sincerity of Tallahassee and The Sunset Tree whilst continually developing the overall vocal sound. The utilisation of his existing touring band is a definite bonus as well, for they bring their own styles and graces which significantly benefits the framework of each song.

The album seems to grow more complicated as it progresses as well. The simplicity and repetition of ”ËœAmy aka Spent Gladiator 1′ seems so far removed from ”ËœIn Memory of Satan’ or the lavish horns of the titular track.

Darnielle has the capacity to elicit chuckles, genuine concern and lumps in the throat, the fact that this all seems so brilliantly constructed only adds to the impact of the lyrics and emotive, inimitable voice which he possesses.

The Mountain Goats official website is HERE. Their twitter (which is basically John talking about death metal and soup) can be found HERE

Listen: Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more of his Louder Than War articles HERE
He writes about movies HERE and lurks about on Twitter HERE

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Colin McCracken is an Irish writer and cinematic obsessive who writes extensively about movies on a daily basis for his website He is equally passionate about vinyl (he used to run an independent record store), literature, live music and film soundtracks. He can also be found regularly on twitter as @zombiehamster.


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