The Mountain Goats’ downtempo “The Life of the World to Come” is haunting and lovely


The Life of the World to Come is as much a book of tales as it is music. We already are well-aware of John Darnielle’s deft and stimulating storytelling ability, but he takes “story” to a new level on The Mountain Goats‘ latest. With biblical references for song titles, The Life of the World to Come is surely an ambitious effort – one that rarely has any musical flow whatsoever. But as a society, we applaud difference and creativity – and there’s a reason for that. However, we don’t want to just go handing away gold medals for creativity, as it can only take us so far. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is often not a good thing. A child is considered creative if they somehow concoct a way to get up to the roof of their house. But do we want them on the roof? Certainly not. A band can mash together a bunch of instruments with crazy, brilliant dissonance but the final product could result in disaster. So oftentimes creativity is not the best barometer for critique. Good thing, then, that in The Mountain Goats’ case, John Darnielle’s creativity rarely fails.

What we have on The Life of the World to Come are hauntingly affective songs. The tracks create a sense of longing and despair (so you happy few will want to turn your heads away as the rest of us shower in their sorrow) with slow piano chords as the backbone. Darnielle’s weary voice sits atop the heart wrenching, minimal instrumentation (intermittent strings, systematic drumbeats, etc.) He speaks ever so quietly, as what we call “singing” is hardly present. Songs that actually have some pop, including the first single (not track,) “Genesis 3:23,” are few and far between. I’m inclined to think that “Genesis 3:23” wouldn’t have even been on the record if there wasn’t a need for a preview track; audiences would have been hesitant upon hearing another song.

Perhaps The Life of the World to Come is necessary to the core of The Mountain Goats’ discography. It showcases just about everything John Darnielle stands for – his neurotic and intimate lyricism, his warm sound, his fragile vocals. It’s almost like he wants us to take a step back from the mask of the overwrought sound and let our imaginations unfold. The songs are mystical creatures, tip-toeing along as we try to make sense of it all. But the trick’s on us – there are no answers. We can only try to ready ourselves for the nothing and everything that is The Life of the World to Come.

The Mountain Goats – “Genesis 3:23” [MP3]

The Mountain Goats – “Genesis 30:3” [MP3]

Purchase The Life of the World to Come

1 comment to The Mountain Goats’ downtempo “The Life of the World to Come” is haunting and lovely

  • Tart

    Ok, you hooked me, I hope you’re happy. I never was a huge fan of the MG and although I had a good time at his show with John what’shisname last spring, i wasn’t really gonna give this a real listen. But after reading your review I think I’m gonna have to. Well done, darlin! Fucking well done! xoxo