“I hide down in my corner because I like my corner,” John Darnielle sings on the opening track of The Mountain Goats latest LP, Transcendental Youth.
Darnielle has made a career out of revealing the dark crevasses and the ugly nooks and crannies that make up this corner. Up to this point, he has acted as a bard to make sure the stories of his unfortunate characters are told.
On Transcendental Youth, Darnielle rises from poet to leader. He’s encouraging his characters – and through them his audience – more openly than ever before.
“Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive. Do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away,” Darnielle sings on “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1” before launching into the rally cry, “And stay alive. Just stay alive.”
Darnielle is standing up against those who think they can set the standard of normal. “You can't tell me what my spirit tells me isn't true, can you?” he sings on “White Cedar.”
His increased prominence as a leader is reflected musically as well. The Mountain Goats are now a big band featuring a full horn section arranged by the incredible Matthew E. White. From the emotional, shifting colors on “White Cedar” to the glitzy swing on “Transcendental Youth,” not once do they feel out of place.
Transcendental Youth isn’t just “the one with horns” in The Mountain Goats catalog; it’s the one that let’s you know John Darnielle loves you just the way you are and is willing to fight for you. Just stay alive.
Transcendental Youth is available now on Merge Records.