Album Review

Mountain Goats "All Eternals Deck"

Megan Eidelbach
Rarely is it that I listen to a band and find myself so enthused by their music that I ultimately put them on top of my list at once as one of my new favorite bands, and attempt to listen to every single song by them in one night. Tonight was definitely, however, one of those nights, and it was all due to the amazing sound of Claremont, California natives the Mountain Goats.

I recall hearing, in the past, listening to some of the Mountain Goats’ previous albums, however, I was taken aback by the beauty and the exquisite production and music of the Mountain Goats' March release All Eternals Deck, their first by the Merge label. With their songs evoking the styling of Iron and Wine, or perhaps the raw audacity of Johnny Hobo and The Freight Trains, or even Defiance, Ohio (with a softer edge), it is no wonder New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones proclaimed front man John Darnielle as “America's best non-hip hop lyricist”. His words are gut-wrenching and poetic, words that both touch upon modern times and flicker with the wistfulness of long-deceased famous poets. The songs themselves are titled with dark and occultish titles, with themes of fortune-telling, vampires, serpents, scorpions, and even Judy Garland's autopsy. If you were to pick up the Goats' album and look at the cover, for example, as well as read the song titles, you may mistake it for a death metal album, for even the artwork looks eerily styled, like that of a typically harder-toned release. Is it any wonder that Morbid Angel's Erik Rutan produced four of the thirteen songs on the album itself? However, though Darnielle may listen to and be a fan of metal, in no way are any of these tracks near the death metal sound. Instead, songs such as “Age of Kings” proclaims a simplistic love experience, “Estate Sale Sign” is a faster rush, speedier than the other songs on the album, a less-raspy Johnny Hobo-esque wonder. “Over Scorpion Squadron” is melodic and haunting, with flat, strange lyrics, and ultimately, entrancing. “Damn These Vampires” is striking, with lines spouting phrases like “Watch out for the corner/where the turbines hiss/someday.../we won't remember this.”, and “High Hawk Season” proclaims to “rise if you are sleeping/stay awake/we are young supernovas/and the heat's about to break”... The most intriguing song on this album however, in my opinion, is in the track “Liza Forever Minelli”- so blatant and pleading that I can actually picture Darnielle laying desperately on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, proclaiming that he will “never get away/never get away/I'm never ever gonna get away from this place” and that he is just going to “ lay down on the street, my eyes toward the sun/your star against my face”....

While some front men are just naturally lyrically talented, Darnielle (who also writes for Decibel magazine), takes the cake- and the enchanting music by bassist Peter Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster (also of Superchunk) melds everything together like spun gold. I will be looking for more of this band both in their past triumphs and in forthcoming albums (undoubtedly to be successes as well) . Sometimes there is simple magic in lyrics, and in messages that bands send out to their listeners and fans- I found it interesting that Darnielle spoke of the album's draw perfectly in a review from Stereogun- “ 'If you have ever watched, say an occult-scare movie where one of the scenes involves people visiting a store-front fortune-teller, getting their cards read, and then trying to feel super hopeful when what they're visibly actually feeling is dread, then you have a pretty decent idea of what the album is about'”. I definitely couldn't have said it better myself.