[Simultaneous author’s/editor’s note: I’m going to start experimenting with expanding this blog beyond the tedious, academic, and unintentionally hilarious realm of birding in the Swarthmore vicinity. I’ve realized that though I find the topic to be endlessly fascinating, a very small minority share my view, and so really the blog has begun to serve only my own purposes. In all likelihood, expansion will not change that paradigm, but I will like to be able to talk to myself about more things. I’ve always been wary of launching a full blog for fear of becoming a sensitive emo journalist, so I desperately want to avoid that whilst finding more topics to explore. Please tell me if things are getting too emo, if you see me in real life or in the blog. All you have to say is ‘wtityb’. By the way, I love italicized fonts, and I’m kind of tempted to go like this the whole way.]
Heard an advance copy of the new Mountain Goats album, entitled Get Lonely, due out on August 22nd. Here’s the cover art:
Being the good indie kid that he is, my good friend Mr. Behrend has already listened to this album four times in the last four hours, and has already reached stunning conclusions regarding the overall structure and themes of the record, and its place in the Darniellian canon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all; Mr. Porcaro notes that I did the same with Destroyer’s Rubies, except I ended up listening to nothing else for two weeks straight. Time will tell if Mr. Behrend can reach those same levels of endurance.
I’ve only gotten through the record once, currently working on the second, but it’s clearly apparent that Get Lonely marks a dramatic shift in the Mountain Goats sound. It’s not that the Mountain Goats have suddenly become a death-metal outfit (though I wouldn’t put that past him, as he’s an outspoken fan of metal, see his own blog Last Plane to Jakarta), the change is more subtle than that.
Darnielle used to be a man of frantic strumming and yelping on the lo-fi boombox recordings, able to fill musical space with his chords and the hiss of tape. It’s been years since he’s abandoned the boombox and moved on into the studio, but this is the first Mountain Goats album in which I can barely even notice the presence of the guitar. It’s almost gone. All we get is Mr. Darnielle’s voice, and empty space.
Thinking back, it’s actually quite similar to the live show that the Mountain Goats put on here at Swarthmore last year, in which nearly every song in the catalog was turned quiet and sparse. That worked exceedingly well in a live show, as it lended a true sense of personal emotion to the face on stage, but I almost feel like there’s too much of a disjunct when a listener hears Get Lonely on the headphones or the speakers; there’s too much distance between what Darnielle is trying to say, and who he’s trying to say it to. Perhaps that’s intentional, as indiciated by the album title, but at the same time, the music seems to simply fall flat to me. I’m only listening, and I’m not being emotionally affected at all.
Uh oh, is this already getting too emo? Abandon ship!
I will undoubtedly be returning to this record, as there’s no way I can fully judge a Mountain Goats album on first listen. But the general indie community seems to agree that this is an interesting stylistic turn in the Mountain Goats oeuvre, and perhaps not for the better. But we’ll see if that sentiment holds up in the coming weeks and months.
The final thing I have to say about Get Lonely is that there are many references to my home state of NORTH CAROLINA in the record, in large part due to the fact that Darnielle has recently become a resident of the city of Durham. I’ve heard stories of area hipsters seeing him in the supermarket and going completely bananas. As embarassing as that may be, it’s largely because we really haven’t had any indie rock stars since the long-forgotten days of Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, and even those two groups rarely reference their home state. The only other indie record I can think of that talks about NC so extensively is The Sames – You Are the Sames, which is not a bad record, but certainly pales in comparison to the worst Mountain Goats record, which is what makes this so exciting. To hear highway 15-501, the city of Goldsboro, and the beach in Corolla poeticized by one of the leading voices in indie rock is truly exciting. I’m reading over that last sentence again, and man I’m such an indie rock loser. Rock on.