The Mountain Goats
The Life of the World to Come (4AD)
The Life of the World to Come, the Mountain Goats’ 17th studio album, is one of the most diverse outings yet from the North Carolina–based urban folk band, yet never strays too far from its lower than lo-fi roots. This biblically inspired release oscillates between the quirky—epitomized by the cheeky, bossa-nova inspired “Philippians 3:20-21”—to the quietly lamentable, including the gut-wrenching piano ballad “Genesis 30:3”.
The Mountain Goats push the envelope into the almost unbearably adorable with “Genesis 3:23”, a lighthearted number with a rolling piano line that invokes the best of alt-rockers Eels. Elsewhere, “Psalms 40:2”, a bass-driven shaker, is full of no-nonsense drums and an almost otherworldly vocal tone.
But it’s the stripped-down sound that singer-songwriter John Darnielle is best known for that colours the majority of the tracks on The Life of the World, including the characteristically lo-fi “1 Samuel 15:23”, a quiet acoustic guitar-led song with sparse percussion. Later on, the gentle “Matthew 25:21”, highlighted by an open-tuned guitar line, wouldn’t sound out of place on a singer-songwriter classic like Joni Mitchell’s Blue. The organic string arrangements on songs like “1 John 4:16”, courtesy of Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett, add a fresh tone to the album, which otherwise might veer into territory already well-covered by the Mountain Goats’ previous 16 studio albums.
All of Darnielle’s favourite subjects—disillusionment, loss, nihilistic car accidents—make appearances this time out, but the overall tone on The Life of the World is decidedly more cheerful than past Goats’ releases like the emotionally wraught The Sunset Tree. Ultimately, The Life of the World is ultimately a showcase for what the Mountain Goats are best at creating: lyrically driven tales of emotionality set against a backdrop of delicate instrumentation.
Download This: “Genesis 30:3”