Reviews:: The Mountain Goats Heretic Pride

Normally when it comes to John Darnielle, I try keep my words brief. His songs play like short stories and trying to find words to describe them is almost impossible. He's able to transport you to a single moment and force you to become part of it. Whether it's as simple as the love a man feels as he fills a hotel bath tub for his girlfriend or a passing description of a boy wearing something as random as a Marcus Allen jersey, you feel like his moments are now yours.

Overall, Heretic Pride is more optimistic than past efforts. I've always thought John had an underlying sense of optimism in even the darkest situations, but this time around he's not obsessing over the worst of times. John still focuses on moments, but they are at times the (dare I say) happy ones. We will never be alone in this world… these words slink out on San Bernardino and for the first time John isn't simply looking for a glimpse of sun in a persistent rain storm. Instead, he's finding the beauty and running with it, letting the blackness fade from his memory.

Sure, he still crafts tales of misery, paranoia and heartache, but it seems like he's letting some of his demons go. Tianchi Lake is a sincere look at the innocence of summer time swimming. It sounds cliché, but he takes you back to a simpler time and you are hit with an overwhelming feeling of unbridled joy. It's just the right balance of emotion to contrast the tear jerking sadness of tracks Sept 15th 1983.

But all too often people forget that the Mountain Goats is not just Darnielle and this record, more than any other, really showcases the supporting players. I realize that Darnielle can sing his songs over a simple muted strum and make it engaging, but the extra sounds really help this record move. Vanderslice and Solter really help bring out the most emotion possible from each song.

The beautiful strings on San Bernardino add the perfect backdrop for Darnielle's tale of two scared parents, and create the tenderness the songs deserves. The picked strings, female harmonies and drums on Autoclave make you want to dance, but the gritty textures that bubble up make sure the song never becomes to sweet.

I really think the instrumentation is the key to this record. The frantic collage of sounds that peaks in Lovecraft in Brooklyn adds an immediacy to the song, while the piano notes that float around the dream-like Tianchi Lake create that childlike whimsy. These elements make this record seem bigger, bolder and more complete than any MG record so far.

I've been listening to this record a lot over the last few weeks, but still don't think it's completely sunk in. I'm sure there are messages and meanings that are still uncovered, but musically the record is full of shifts, risks and countless rewards.

MP3:: Sax Rohmer #1

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The Mountain Goats are here in Vancouver on Feb. 22nd @ Richard's on Richards.


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