all eternals deck
Artist The Mountain Goats
Album All Eternals Deck
Label Merge Records
Release Date March 29, 2011
I was around four years old when John Darnielle released his first cassette tape as The Mountain Goats in 1991. From that time, a total of 12 studio albums, 6 cassette tapes, 19 EPs/singles, 5 split albums, 3 compilation albums and 2 unreleased works have been credited to the band on their Wikipedia discography. And tons of other works where he has made an appearance. All Eternals Deck marks the group (and it is currently a group, not just Darnielle)’s 13th studio album.
I caught up with the band around 4 LPs ago in 2006 with their Get Lonely released. Quickly, I backtracked to The Sunset Tree. A huge fan of both of these albums and when I was in LA, happened to pick up All Hail West Texas on a trip to Amoeba Records (the greatest place in the world). It was with this record that I fell in love. It has the greatest liner notes of any CD I have ever purchased, including a poem, a detailed and loving description of the recording equipment. Here’s a slightly blurry but readable image (click on it to see it bigger):
This, combined with the incredible music make this my favorite Mountain Goats album, and it is certainly in strong contention for my top 5 favorite albums of all time. My senior year of college in an alternative drawing methods class, I did a modified book based on the poem at the top of the above image combined with imagery from the album. One of these days I’ll get around to scanning it in, or perhaps mailing to John Darnielle. I’m really proud of it.
I’ve enjoyed his most recent two albums, Heretic Pride and Life of the World To Come and to a less intense extent, a good chunk of his back catalog. None as much as the 3 albums mentioned above. My interest in the band has also been enhanced by Darnielle’s fantastic Twitter account which he started last year (@mountain_goats).
For me, a good Mountain Goats album is primarily a result of well delivered well written lyrics. Darnielle is a top notch story teller. In the classical tradition of the American songwriter, he tells stories about regular people who live regular lives. I’m often pretty slow with picking up lyrics, but so far on this album I’ve found a few great things to hold on to. I’m sure when I get the album (hopefully with lyrics in the liner notes) I will be able to get a better hand on things. I preordered the album within hours after it became available, but have not received it yet. (I’ve been getting my fix via NPR who was– still is– streaming the album here. Yesterday, the album properly leaked and I downloaded it.)
The first track of note happens to be the first track on the album, Damn These Vampires. Probably capitalizing on the Twilight craze, this song may actually be about vampires, but is probably just about a couple people struggling to behave like humans. None the less, it is a fantastic song. Things pretty much blaze on from there through the first three tracks.
Things don’t slow down until track four, Age of Kings, which sounds like it could have been from the last album. I won’t go over every track on this album, but all the tracks are good. Some are more noteworthy than others.
Then, we get to the second to last track, “Never Quite Free”. This is an instant Mountain Goats classic. This is a live show essential for the rest of Darnielle’s career. It’s as good as “No Children” and “This Year” which are the two tracks which I think people consider as quintessential Mountain Goats tracks. “No Children” charts the angry demise of a couple (The Alpha Couple), “This Year” marks the determination of a confident future, and “Never Quite Free” could very well be on the other end of the the aforementioned year: There were some troubles, we made it, and things are going to be ok. It’s not an intentional continuation of any variety, but it makes sense to me.
It’s okay to find the faith to saunter forward
There’s no fear of shadows spreading where you stand
And you’ll breathe easier just knowing that the worst is all behind you
And the waves that tossed the raft all night have set you on dry land
(Also, I don’t want to ruin this song for anyone, but the drum beat to the song is nearly identical to the Cali Swag District hit, Teach Me How to Dougie)
After that climax, the closer “Liza Forever Minnelli” is certainly the quiet denouement. It is a nice closer, but the high point of the album is certainly “Never Quite Free.” It is too soon to say, but this may end up being my second favorite Mountain Goats album. It is a solid work without a weak track, and there are some fantastic highlights. As of right now, this is probably my favorite CD of the 6 I’ve reviewed this year. We’ll see how it stacks up on multiple listens, but I’ve already racked up quite a few and it gets better every time.
7/8 literary references I don’t understand
Download this here.