Monday, December 15, 2014

Album Listening Club - We Shall All Be Healed discussion post

The Mountain Goats!

Photo from Merge records - Photo by DL Anderson
You thought I was going to post a picture of actual goats on a mountain, didn't ya? Well, I almost did. But I thought better against it.

This The Mountain Goats is a band fronted and founded in 1991 by John Darnielle, who released a bunch of material under The Mountain Goats name without having a full-time backing band. Bass player Peter Hughes joined full-time in 2002, with drummer Jon Wurster joining in 2007. Wikipedia says that We Shall All Be Healed is an autobiographical record about "Darnielle's life with a group of friends and acquaintances addicted to methamphetamine in Portland, Oregon, though the album is set in Pomona, California."

At first listen, the music and lyrics remind me a bit of Robyn Hitchcock (maybe not the music style, necessarily, and Robyn's backing band tends to be a bit better produced, as in the drums and bass sound more full & deep), and the sound of John's voice reminds me of the singer for The Thermals, Hutch Harris. Or maybe it's more like Liz Phair, musically. Anyway.

Clearly I'm not a deep Mountain Goats listener. Yet. I like the indie feel to the album and the stories that John tells. I'll definitely be playing this & other Mountain Goats records more.

What about you? What's your experieince with this record? Let's club The Mountain Goats. (That's just a figure of speech. No Mountain Goats or mountain goats should be harmed.)

5 comments:

  1. I think I may have heard this album before since I went through a brief MG phase years ago and some of these songs sound familiar to me. I assumed that the lead singer was obviously heavily influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel who I adore. The very first song 'Slow West Vulture' reminded me of NMH. Upon further research I found out that Darnielle was making music officially in '91 w/cassette only releases. Their first full album came out in '94//'95 & NMH first album came out in '96, so the influence is the opposite way around.

    John has a real knack for lyricism as evidenced by the song 'Mole' which it seems to be a very personal song about a loved one who is in the hospital. It's a very intimate song. Unfortunately, for some reason his style doesn't keep me interested though, as talented as he is. Not sure why. I think it might be the timbre of his voice that doesn't sit well with my ear. It's a bit piercing. It's funny, I'm finding the more I listen to this album though, the more I'm finding I like it. I've listened to it 3 times now. I think the lyrics are what are keeping me interested. So apparently JD's lyricism is working it's magic on me haha.

    I do really like the song 'Letter From Belgium' which is quite catchy and there are some other great songs on this album as well like 'Home Again Garden Grove' & 'Cotton' that caught my attention. I think I might listen to them again and check out their newer albums to see if they might grow on me more.

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    1. I thought of Neutral Milk Hotel also. A little David Lowery and Camper Von Beethoven. I really hadn't listened to The Mountain Goats before, but I'm intrigued by this first listen. I could definitely stand to listen to them more. The Americana feel (i.e. freight train rhythms) are right up my alley, but other aspects such as the half-sung half-spoken vocal delivery don't really fit in pop loving aesthetic. Although I try to be patient with artist and how they choose to present their work. SO for now I'm just listening.

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    2. Lyric lover here, I'm all in. Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph of Lyrics got me.

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    3. Glad I'm not the only one who noticed the NMH.similarity Sid. Didn't hear DL & Camper but I'm not that familiar w/their work although I've listened to both.

      Yes, the lyrics definitely draw one in if you let them. I'm not a big lyric person. To me a voice is just another instrument that contributes to the overall effect & the lyrics are part of that. It takes several listens before I really start paying attention to the lyrics. But it also depends on the artist too. If I really like an artist I may pay closer attention.

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  2. I first heard The Mountain Goats "Damn These Vampires" which appealed to my quirky side. There is a lot of that, here, too, in the variety of songs. I like that the album has such a range, and the

    It probably helped that I was listening to the audiobook of A Scanner Darkly the same time I was listening through this album, so the drug-fueled events in the album played nicely into that, being a book about the descent into addiction and madness. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.

    Drugs obviously feature substantially in the album. Writing this has me remembering just how many people I know/have known like this.

    Palmcorder Yajna caught me early, and I’ve found myself humming through it for weeks. This one worked quite well into the Scanner Darkly imagery… from the crappy hotel room to the paranoia and the dying friends of the headstone climbing up the hill.

    Linda Blair Was Born Innocent feels quite like Damn These Vampires. The plaintive strings add a melancholy that fits well with the lyrics… “empty hearts on fire, hungry for love, ready to drown”. Again, this reminds me of Dick’s Bob Arctor.

    Letter from Belgium - “That's good we can always use some more electrical equipment” I’ve interacted with a few people living in this… the accumulation of crap for theoretical projects or profit, the notebooks scrawled with plans and ramblings, the paranoia… living like shut-ins in their apartments, oscillating between cleaning up and re-discovering how much “better” things are when drugged.

    Your Belgian Things… I’m not quite how the relationship ended, but the loss is palpable. I listened to a couple of live versions of this, as well.

    I think it flows nicely into Mole which paints a great picture of visiting a friend who overdosed, partly to support them and partly to see what’s in store. The sound is… meek? I think it conveys the uncertainty. The break around 2:10-2:40 into the “waltz” reminds me of something, but I can’t place it. I went looking for waltzes, but didn’t burn too much time on it.

    Home Again Garden Grove & Quito — the driving acoustic guitar and clipped vocals create an… urgency? Not really sure that’s the right word. Intensity? It makes them harder to listen to.

    Against Pollution has a good soothing soundscape… from the gentle hi-hat to occasional notes on the dulcimer(?). Something about the chords at 0:40 - 0:45 reminds me of the Smashing Pumpkins 1979.

    I noticed that the first chord in Against Pollution seems to be all throughout the album… that A major, I believe (I’m well out of my depth on this analysis, seriously). Palmcorder Yanja, Letter from Belgium. Listening back to the beginnings of the songs, it’s more that opening strike, which is where i lack the terminology to describe, shared across all of those and Home Again Garden Grove and Quito.

    I’ve been trying to describe the rest of the songs on here for a while, and I’m giving up in favor of actually posting something.

    I like much of the album. There’s good layering and a lot going on, here. At the same time, the tendency to clipping makes some of it unpleasant for regular listening. You have to be in the mood for it, and I suppose that makes sense, given the reasons behind it. I really like a number of the songs, but I know I’ll be skipping some of the tracks almost all the time.

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