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Tag Archives: The Mountain Goats
One of the best things about the Mountain Goats’ voluminous back catalog is that it offers a plethora of entry points to the band and its music, with no two records quite the same. There’s frontman John Darnielle’s lo-fi, Panasonic boom box beginnings. There are the polished but no less earnest tracks from The Sunset Tree and Tallahassee. And there are the band’s recent releases, like Transcendental Youth and Beat the Champ, that take chances on unique concepts and different instrumentation, but don’t lack in lyrical punch or poignancy. There are any number of places to start with the Mountain Goats, and each is worthwhile and approachable on its own terms.
Goths continues in that untraditional tradition. The group’s Bandcamp page boasts that the album has “NO COMPED VOCALS, NO PITCH CORRECTION, NO GUITARS,” and it shows. Musically, Goths is driven by slick bass lines, strong percussion, and a bevy of what sounds like the sort of classroom instruments borrowed from the lesser lights of late night. Goths also leans hard on the horn section the band embraced in earnest on Transcendental Youth. It features heavy doses of synth, different shades of jazz, and even the occasional disco beat that immediately mark it as unique among Mountain Goats records. The band often comes up short in this novel approach, and the new direction can be off-putting for longtime listeners, but it certainly gives Goths a distinct flavor.
I first learned about The Mountain Goats’ latest album, Beat The Champ, when a friend of mine messaged me saying, “I’m pretty sure John Darnielle is releasing an album for you and you alone.” My friend was obviously joking, but she’s right that Beat The Champ, a concept album where each track is about some facet of professional wrestling, is tailored to a rather unusual venn diagram of fans. Despite the fact that Darnielle, the main creative voice behind The Mountain Goats, resides in a traditional hotbed for wrestling, there are probably few other folks in the world who have both sung Darnielle’s praises and also waxed philosophical about the main event at Wrestlemania.
And yet, there’s something very natural about Darnielle directing his humanizing gaze toward the squared circle. In the past, Darnielle’s shown a particular aptitude for writing poignant, heart-wrenching songs about vagabonds, broken men, and other self-destructive characters. Sadly, none of these individuals are in short supply in the wrestling business.
When we started this tradition last year, I mentioned that as New Years Eve starts to roll around, you’re apt to see a number of “Best of 2011” music lists. I have no issue with these lists, and I think it’s great to look back at the best new music of the past twelve months. But this sort of thing doesn’t capture experience that most people have with music in a given year. In the past year, I discovered plenty of great music, some of it from 2011, some of it from decades ago, and everywhere in between. In that spirit, I present to you, in no particular order, the Top Ten Songs I Was Stuck on in 2011.
Around this time of year, everyone puts out their “Best of 2010” lists. There’s nothing wrong with this practice exactly. It’s a good way of looking back at the past year of excitement, entertainment, and events, but I always feel like it misses something, particularly with respect to music. If you’re anything like me, the newest and best additions to your music collection did not all come from 2010. There’s something so great about discovering a brilliant song written anywhere from a few years ago to a few decades ago that is equal to the novelty of any new release. With that spirit in mind, here is a list of the top ten songs I discovered this past year, regardless of when they came out.