MOUNTAIN GOATS, THE - TRANSCENDENTAL YOUTH LP
JOHN DARNIELLE has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail because he is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life. But many have noted that John Darnielle seems often very happy, and his demeanor on stage is almost exclusively unhaunted, ecstatic. Anyone who reads his Twitter feed knows he takes great delight in his delights: vegan cooking, fat babies, hockey, the beautiful alchemy of Chemex coffee, Anonymous 4, and playing music for people. These are the consolations; and if some of his songs suggest that there are real hells on earth, other songs remind that the heavens are equally close at hand. (Sometimes they are even the same songs.) It is my impression that this is the ecstasy John Darnielle is feeling: that thrill of having survived, escaped for even a second to enjoy those small transcendent delights, and to sing of them. Transcendental Youth is full of songs about people who madly, stupidly, blessedly won’t stop surviving, no matter who gives up on them. I can report that it is a very good album and has many more instruments on it than his early cassette tapes, including Peter Hughes on bass, Jon Wurster on drums, and, for the first time, a full horn section. And all of this makes a very joyous noise. —John Hodgman, 2012.