Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Album Review: "All Eternals Deck" by The Mountain Goats

"All Eternals Deck" by The Mountain Goats was
Released on March 29, 2011 on Durhams
Merge Records
John Darnielle's career has spanned over 20 years, and he's seen it all from lo-fi bedroom recordings, to the 2002 signing to 4AD Records when "Tallahassee" was released, all the way up to his signing with Merge and the release of one of the best Mountain Goats albums since "The Sunset Tree".  "All Eternals Deck" has everything you look for and quite frankly a few things that you weren't anticipating from a Mountain Goats album as well, in a good way.  It's a perfect summarization of how much Darnielle's songwriting has evolved while still maintaining it's core values of being incredibly raw, eloquent, and catchy all at the same time.

The album kicks off with the first single from the album, "Damn These Vampires".  It opens with a bare and minimal verse of piano, drums, and bass with Darnielle spitting out his lyrics, but the song unfolds brilliantly as it goes on and it quite frankly sounds very "Tallahassee"-esque as it goes on, but with a new spin on it.  That's a pretty accurate way to sum up a good amount of the album actually, it's the perfect blend of old Mountain Goats with the newer band and evolved sound.  One of the best parts though is that in songs like "The Autopsy Garland", a song about Judy Garland (and only one of 3 songs about celebrities on the album with the others being "Song For Charles Bronson" and "Liza Forever Minnelli"), you still have Darnielle and his acoustic guitar at the core of it driving through the whole song, but the addition of the bass and the percussion just add that much more to it.  Darnielle also exhibits some of his best lyricism on this album as well, there's usually at least one or two lines in every song that just leaves me stopping and going backwards a bit to listen to it again and truly take it in again, because Darnielle certainly has a talent of perfectly blending relatability with deeply personal and making it come out excellently.  It's got the lines the that undoubtedly will be screamed back at John and the band at shows from now until forever like when he belts out, "Every martyr in this jungle is gonna get his wish" in "Estate Sale Sign".

Darnielle isn't afraid to reach out of the safe zone either, the song "High Hawk Season" features some of the most interesting things you'll probably ever hear in a Mountain Goats song, with a harmonizing trio of male singers in the background providing for accompaniment.  There's something fulfilling about hearing the group sing the lines "Rise if you're sleeping stay awake" along with Darnielle, especially if you've heard how far along  he's come with productions since his bedroom recordings so many years ago.  It's great to be able to see an artist truly flesh out his work, especially someone as incredibly talented as John Darnielle is.  Darnielle's manic singing style is displayed in it's finest on this album, yet so is his other side with songs like "Sourdoire Valley Song" and "Outer Scorpion Squadron" that take reveal the slower and more melodic side of his songwriting.  "Outer Scorpion Squadron" in particular displays a beautiful arrangement of strings that rise and fall along with Darnielle and his piano, hearing it all blend together and come to a peak with some of Darnielle's finest display of his singing as well.

The Mountain Goats are firing on all cylinders on "All Eternals Deck", it's them doing what they do best...at their best.  A stunning debut on Merge for the Durham based Mountain Goats, and one that certainly has me heavily anticipating the show with Megafaun at The Cat's Cradle on April 8th (tickets for which have already sold out).  Whether you're an old fan of The Mountain Goats who's curious as to what the new sound is like or if you're a new fan interesting in checking out an album, this is one to head straight for.  It's by far one of the bands most accessible albums, but with that accessibility the Mountain Goats don't toss out their core values.  They still hash out lyrics that will cut to the core of you and they still scream out loud exactly what they mean.  Favorite Carolina release of the year thus far. 

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