This Saturday’s Selection is The Mountain Goats’ newest album: Transcendental Youth (surprise, surprise!).
Where do I even begin? How could I possibly paint a complete—much less accurate—picture of the poetic chaos that is The Mountain Goats? This is John Darnielle we’re talking about. This is the guy who’s written an entire record from the perspective of a drug addict living with a bunch of other drug addicts as their relationship slowly decays into death, despair, and, eventually, prison (We Shall All Be Healed). Moon Colony Bloodbath is the story of moon-dwelling cannibal. There’s the infamous Tallahassee, The Story of the Married Couples’ Relationship Painfully Dissolving Into Hatred and Sorrow. Then there’s The Sunset Tree, written so genuinely it’s heartbreaking, about victims of child abuse. He embodies his characters with a fervour I’ve never found in any other lyricist, word-crafting with such simplistic beauty that the stories he weaves are tangible. You feel enraged, frightened, sorrowful, rancorous, what have you, right alongside his characters. Most entrancing of all is that you can somehow identify with even the most radical of characters. On Tallahassee‘s featured track, No Children, he has you screaming “I HOPE YOU DIE, I HOPE WE BOTH DIE!” in no time flat. JD is earnest and passionate, and he writes about real, raw life: all the dark corners, the deepest pits, the highest highs, and the things we do to deal with it. No, not deal: fucking conquer.
Transcendental Youth is no less exquisite. Not only does JD bring on the intense feels and the obscure references to Scarface characters you hear about but never meet (track 8, The Diaz Brothers), but the musical production and arrangements are unlike his previous studio albums. The album features piano and horns prominently, rather than JD’s traditional urgent guitar playing. The horn sections are arranged by Matthew E. White, who opened for the band on their tour in 2012, and boy, are they tri-fucking-umphant! If JD’s pleas to “Stay alive, just stay alive!” in the first track, Amy aka Spent Gladiator, Pt. 1, aren’t already enough to keep you listening, the horns on the album’s third track, Cry for Judas (video below), will fill your revenge-hungry soul with victory. When the first verse comes in with “Some things you do just to see / How bad they’ll make you feel / Sometimes you try to freeze time / ‘Til those thoughts are a blur of spinning wheels,” you’re struck with the frank truth of the statement. Then, with the subtlety of a profoundly innocent child: “But I am just a broken machine / And I do things that I don’t really mean.” That’s hard to argue with. It’s also hard to pick out just a few of the gems on this album.
Give Transcendental Youth a close listen, let it sink in, and don’t be shy to go back for more. And more. And more until you own tMG’s entire discography and know almost every song by heart I mean, what?
ROCK ON FOREVER and stay alive, ponyboy.