Monday, March 28, 2011

Album Review: The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

All Eternals Deck, the first Mountain Goats release on Merge Records, is named after a Tarot card deck known for its hopeful predictions, and on it John Darnielle, a man known for his youthful rage, sounds like some things he never has before: comfortable and content.

On the surface, it seems odd that a man could find comfort in songs about despair, the occult, and tragic Hollywood figures with macabre titles like “Beautiful Gas Mask,” but Darnielle is no normal man. These are few of his favorite things.

Early in the album, Darnielle sings about the tragedy of Judy Garland in “The Autopsy Garland.” The subject matter, hushed vocals and menacing percussion make it the bleakest moment of All Eternals Deck.

The Mountains Goats find hope in the success and redemption of Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. It takes until the end of the album (“Liza Forever Minnelli”), but it’s a journey worth taking.

On every album Darnielle has a song that could be considered among the best Mountain Goats songs and it’s no different here.

The magnificent background harmonies behind Darnielle on “High Hawk Season” create an energy that make it a quiet epic. Add in a new line for fans to shout at concerts (“We are young supernovas and the heat’s about to break!”) and it’s an instant classic. Also, opener “Damn These Vampires” is one of the catchiest pop songs he’s penned.

The Mountain Goats haven’t recorded an album this consistent since The Sunset Tree in 2005. Darnielle may be gradually putting his raging youth behind him, but that doesn’t mean that he’s lost a step.

The Mountain Goats will play Cat's Cradle with Megafaun on April 8. All Eternals Deck is available from Merge Records on March 29.

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