What these cryptic signals mean: The best of the Mountain Goats

It’s a pleasure to compile a song list as vast as the Mountain Goats’. An admirer of Joni Mitchell and Boz Scaggs, John Darnielle has shown how narrative and sophisticated rhythms can generate a marvelous frisson when strumming an acoustic guitar. I became a fan with 2004’s We Shall All Be Healed enough to use it as the pivot for a year end essay. 2005’s The Sunset Tree is one of the most compassionate song cycles I’ve ever heard: Darnielle examines a childhood lived in fear as a result of a parent whose three dimensions don’t palliate his viciousness. Drummer, horn charts, H.P. Lovecraft, Bible verses, wrestlers — these are decisions and influences his songs keep assimilating. His curiosity and appetites astonish me.

Full disclosure: I consider John Darnielle a friend.

1. Against Pollution
2. This Year
3. No Children
4. Love Love Love
5. Estate Sale Sign
6. Autoclave
7. Foreign Object
8. Sax Rohmer 1
9. Home Again Garden Grove
10. Pale Green Things
11. The Young Thousands
12. Beautiful Gas Mask
13. Tallahassee
14. Lovecraft in Brooklyn
15. How to Embrace a Swamp Creature
16. The Diaz Brothers
17. Liza Forever Minnelli
18. You or Your Memory
19. The House That Dripped Blood
20. Dilaudid
21. Sourdoire Valley Song
22. The Legend of Chavo Guerrero
23. Letter from Belgium
24. Psalms 40:2
25. The Autopsy Garland
26. International Small Arms Traffic Blues
27. First Few Desperate Hours
28. Dance Music
29. San Bernardino
30. The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton

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