Posts Tagged ‘John Darnielle’

For nearly three decades under the Mountain Goats moniker, John Darnielle has been honing his craft as a songwriter and story-teller, shifting from those early direct-to-boombox recordings to elaborate concept albums about Professional Wrestling and Dungeons & Dragons, and generally finding a way to do whatever he wants. His latest project manifests in the new album, Getting Into Knives, “the perfect album for the millions of us who have spent many idle hours contemplating whether we ought to be honest with ourselves and just get massively into knives”. The album was laid to tape in the legendary Sam Phillips Recordings studio, an attempt to capture the spirit of the touring show that has blossomed with their current four-piece band.

The album will arrive on Merge at the end of next month, and this week they’ve shared the latest single from it, Get Famous.

While anyone who has even cast a flitting eye in the direction of The Mountain Goats’ music will probably realise, the thought of actually getting famous has never been top of their to-do-list. Instead here the idea is presented like acid in John’s mouth, spitting out his words at fame hungry stars, “light up the sky like a comet, make yourself want to vomit, shine like a cursed star, show everybody exactly who you are”. He even throws in a reference to Wesley Willis, the cult singer-songwriter, diagnosed with schizophrenia who was in some ways the antithesis of fame itself, to the point he was noted for greeting his fans with a headbutt. Like most of the best moments of The Mountain Goats, the playful lyricism is combined with some genuinely fabulous music, here they seem to channel the spirit of The Swampers or the Spacebomb House Band, combining virtuoso musical talent with a sense of undeniable fun, from the howling organ to the bright brass flourishes, surely destined for choreographed performances once you’re allowed enough people on a stage at one time. A band who know exactly what they’re doing and are at the top of their game, The Mountain Goats might never have sounded better, let’s just hope for their sake they don’t get famous because of it.

The day I wrote this song I knew the wait to share it would be excruciating AND IT HAS BEEN but today! is! the! day! across all platforms right now! Get Famous!. 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.

“That kinetic rush of the record’s creation can be felt in first single ‘As Many Candles as Possible,’ which features Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“The track opens with a bristling twist of guitars and rumbling drums before settling into a steady groove. A distorted crunch underpins the primarily acoustic proceedings, helping the song build to a pitch-perfect freakout, featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Rolling Stone

“The album news arrives with the release of dark, squally lead single “As Many Candles As Possible,” which features Al Green organist Charles Hodges and builds to a churning catharsis.” – Indy Week

“Recorded across a single week in Memphis, the album trades between piano-driven intimacy and stormy bombast, the latter of which is on display in its lead single, ‘As Many Candles As Possible.’ Featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, the dark and swampy track reflects the Deep South milieu in which it was recorded.” – A.V. Club

Limited Edition salmon vinyl, tapes, and pins are almost sold out,

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releases October 23, 2020

RECORDED AT
Sam Phillips Recording, Memphis, Tennessee March 1–6th, 2020

John Darnielle: vocals, guitars, piano
Peter Hughes: electric and upright bass
Matt Douglas: keyboards, woodwinds, guitars, accordion, backing vocals
Jon Wurster: drums and percussion

JOINED FOR THE OCCASION BY
Bram Gielen: piano, guitars, keyboards
Chris Boerner: guitars
Charles Hodges: Hammond B-3
Sam Shoup: Mellotron
Tom Clary: horns
Reba Russell: backing vocals
Susan Marshall: backing vocals

That kinetic rush of the record’s creation can be felt in first single ‘As Many Candles as Possible,’ which features Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges. On the first of March, 2020, John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Matt Douglas, and Jon Wurster, aka the Mountain Goats band, visited legendary studio Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, TN. Darnielle armed his band with new songs and reunited with producer Matt Ross-Spang who engineered last year’s In League with Dragons. In the same room where the Cramps tracked their 1980 debut album, the Mountain Goats spent a week capturing the magic of a band at the top of its game. The result is Getting Into Knives, the perfect album for the millions of us who have spent many idle hours contemplating whether we ought to be honest with ourselves and just get massively into knives.

Getting Into Knives includes guest performance on Hammond B-3 organ by Charles Hodges (of numerous Al Green records) and guest performance on guitar by Chris Boerner (of the Hiss Golden Messenger band). “The track opens with a bristling twist of guitars and rumbling drums before settling into a steady groove. A distorted crunch underpins the primarily acoustic proceedings, helping the song build to a pitch-perfect freakout, featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges.” – Rolling Stone

“The album news arrives with the release of dark, squally lead single “As Many Candles As Possible,” which features Al Green organist Charles Hodges and builds to a churning catharsis.” – Indy Week
“Recorded across a single week in Memphis, the album trades between piano-driven intimacy and stormy bombast, the latter of which is on display in its lead single, ‘As Many Candles As Possible.’ Featuring Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, the dark and swampy track reflects the Deep South milieu in which it was recorded.” – A.V. Club

“As Many Candles As Possible” by the Mountain Goats from their album ‘Getting Into Knives’ coming October 23, 2020 on Merge Records.

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Recorded across the year 2010 at Mana Recording Studios, St. Petersburg, Florida; Fidelitorium, Kernersville, North Carolina; Q Division, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mission Sound, Brooklyn, New York

with: Bob Barrone – steel guitar / Yuval Semo – organ; piano on outer Scorpion Squadron / Yoed Nir – cello / Gillian Rivers – violin / all string arrangements by Yuval Semo / vocals on High Hawk Season arranged by Daniel Perry and performed by the North Mountain Singers: Daniel Roihl, Daniel Perry, and Darrick Yee

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Damn The Vampires, Prowl Great Cain, For Charles Bronson, and Never Quite Free produced and mixed by John Congleton; High Hawk Season produced and mixed by Brandon Eggleston; Birth of Serpents, The Autopsy Garland, Beautiful Gas Mask, and Sourdoire Valley Song produced by Erik Rutan and mixed by Brandon Eggleston; Estate Sale Sign, Age of Kings, Outer Scorpion Squadron, and Liza Forever Minnelli produced and mixed by Scott Solter

all song lyrics and music by John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats:
John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster

 

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So this tape started while the entire band was decamped at an undisclosed location working on the next Mountain Goats album, and I had brought books with me to read, and one of them was Pierre Chuvin’s A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, which I was reading as research material for another thing I’m working on; and it’s been a long time since I sat around playing music and thinking about antiquity, but I used to do it all the time, and several of you know that because the old tapes are all littered with stories about Ajax and Agamemnon and the cult of Cybele, stories which, when I was learning them, got me so fired up that as soon as I got out of class I’d drive home in my yellow 1969 Superbeetle and write songs about them.

At our undisclosed location, one morning, immersed day and night in our work but also beginning to get the feeling that the increasingly febrile pitch of the newsfeed would continue to rise until it reached registers not seen in a while, I had a thought—what if the next Mountain Goats album was just songs about these pagans? And I wrote down the title “Aulon Raid.”

I got home about seven days later and the world was a very different place by then, and I took my old boombox down from the shelf where it sits flanked by brass deities from a former period of my life, and I got a wild idea to stand it on its end to reduce the unpleasant clicking that made it unusable—the hum & grind are one thing, basically ambient noise that adds to the pleasure of the sound if you’re into it, but the clicking I’m talking about developed sometime in the early 2000s and is not a conscriptable effect, it renders the Panasonic unusable.

Unless you stand it on its end, I learned, by accident, one day during the early weeks of the new days.

As these days were developing, I realized, as I’d feared a week before, that the work schedule my band and I had planned for spring probably wouldn’t be panning out. The four members of the band split up our touring income equally, nightly pay & sales of merchandise; before we split up that income, we pay several people from gross receipts: Brandon, our soundman and tour manager of over a decade; Trudy, who works the merch table with style and flair; and Avel, who manages the stage no matter how unmanageable I become. I can’t do what I do without these people and I take great pleasure in trying to make their job a fun place to work. All seven of us rely on the Mountain Goats for our paycheck.

The boombox and I knew we had to do something. Back in the early nineties, when I’d first met Peter Hughes, I wanted to make a tape to be on his label, Sonic Enemy. It was Christmas break and I was on a hot streak, so I decided to try to make a full tape over the course of the break. That tape became Transmissions to Horace, which consisted entirely of work done on a daily basis during that span. I haven’t tried anything like that in a while.

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I wrote a song every day for the next ten days while reading A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, starting with “Aulon Raid” and working in exactly the style I used to work in: read until something jumps out at me; play guitar and ad-lib out loud until I get a phrase I like; write the lyrics, get the song together, record immediately. Those original lyrics, exactly as written on the cardstock I save from comic books I buy, with corrections and everything, will be randomly inserted into orders; each is one of a kind, an original first draft of the lyrics to the first all-boombox Mountain Goats album since All Hail West Texas. It seems unlikely that I will ever again offer original drafts of lyrics for sale or otherwise, but pandemics call for wild measures.

I dedicate this tape to everybody who’s waited a long time for the wheels to sound their joyous grind: may they grind us into a safe future where we gather once again in rooms to sing songs about pagan priests & hidden shelters, and where we see each other face to face.

Hail the Panasonic! Hail the inscrutable engines of chance! Hail Cybele!

John Darnielle, Durham, NC, March 2020

Released April 10th, 2020

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.

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The Mountain Goats have digitally released their “Welcome to Passaic 7″ which has “Passaic 1975″ from this year’s In League With Dragons on the A-side and the awesomely-titled “Get High and Listen to The Cure” — an unreleased song from the sessions for 2017’s Goths — on the flip

The Mountain Goats new release “In League With Dragons”. Singer-songwriter, author, and podcaster John Darnielle started The Mountain Goats in the ‘90s with just an acoustic guitar and a boombox, but over the years he expanded the band’s sound and lineup, and now — backed by Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, and Matt Douglas — he’s supporting this new album which is a far cry from his earliest material.

In League With Dragons, a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired record featuring fantasy settings and characters. It’s also an album, according to a conversation on the I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats podcast, about getting older.

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Released April 26th, 2019

The Band:
Jon Wurster – drums & percussion
Peter Hughes – bass
Matt Douglas – woodwinds, guitars, vocals
John Darnielle – guitars, vocals
Thom Gill – guitars
Johnny Spence – organ, Memorymoog, piano, Wurlitzer, synth
Bram Gielen – guitars, piano, synth
Owen Pallett – piano, organ, guitar

Dan Dugmore – pedal steel on “In League with Dragons”

Vocal arrangements on “Younger,” “In League with Dragons,” “Waylon Jennings Live!” and “Cadaver Sniffing Dog” by Robert Bailey, performed by Robert Bailey, Everett Drake, Jason Eskridge, and Michael Mishaw

Strings arranged by Owen Pallett,

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“In League With Dragons” is the upcoming seventeenth studio album by the Mountain Goats, scheduled to be released on April 26th, 2019, on Merge Records. Inspired by tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the album has been described as a “partial rock opera” with influences from noir literature.

The album was announced on January 28th, 2019. The announcement was accompanied by a live streaming event on Facebook and Twitch.tv, hosted by Wizards of the Coast. The band also released the first single from the album, “Younger”.

In League With Dragons“ surges with wild tales of revenge and redemption, heroes at a crossroads and great figures in decline” over its dozen new, John Darnielle-penned tracks, which “luxuriate in a wide swath of sounds, from shades of the ‘80s Athens scene to swathes of outlaw country and a few motorik meditations,” per a press release. “Younger” is telling evidence of the album’s eclectic genre-hopping, foregrounding the guitars that 2017’s Goths eschewed entirely and ending with a sax solo, of all things. The Mountain Goats frontman opined on the band’s latest in a characteristically sprawling statement, describing its rock opera-meets-high fantasy style as “dragon noir.”

The Mountain Goats are JOHN DARNIELLE, PETER HUGHES, JON WURSTER, and MATT DOUGLAS. They have been making music Together as a quartet for several years. Three of them live in North Carolina and one has moved to Rochester. Their songs often seek out dark lairs within which terrible monsters dwell, But thier mission to retrieve treasure from the dark lair and persuade the monsters inside to seek out the path to redemption. As Axl Rose once memorably asked in the son “Terrible Monster”: “Whats so terrible about monsters anyway” This is the question the Mountain Goats have been asking and pursuing since 1991.

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The Mountain Goats began life in a Norwalk employee-housing studio apartment that had awesome deco tiling on the bathroom floor but little more to recommend the place as a living space. Still, you take what you can get, and it was ridiculously cheap. In this room, equipped with a dual-cassette recorder, John D. started setting some of his poetry to music, using a guitar he’d gotten for a few bucks at a nearby strip mall music store. His idea at the time was that eventually his day job would be “poet.” Young men have all kinds of crazy ideas about what they’re going to end up doing for a living.

After a while the songs became more like songs than poems set to music, and John started playing them for his friend Rachel, who as it turned out, played bass. John and Rachel toured the eastern U.S. & Europe once, the midwest twice (if “Chicago, Columbus and Madison” count as “the midwest”), and played San Francisco a few times, and they recorded two albums and a couple of EPs. Then John graduated from college and moved to Chicago, and the Mountain Goats became Mainly Just John, except for a couple of European tours where John’s friend Peter Hughes played bass. In 2001, though, 4AD called up and asked if the Mountain Goats wouldn’t like to make records with them. John called Peter. They hit the studio.

As a duo, the two toured at a pace that can fairly be called “relentless” from 2002 until 2007. They made records: Tallahassee, We Shall All Be Healed, The Sunset Tree, Get Lonely. They took to recruiting drummers from their opening acts to play the last few songs with them. And then they met Jon Wurster, and the three took to the road in support of Get Lonely, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Hobart, Tasmania, and a few points even further south. They enjoyed playing together so much that when it came time to repair to the studio again, all three went in. In 2008, the three recorded Heretic Pride, and in early 2009, The Life of the World to Come.

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Band Members
John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster and Matt Douglas

When Beat the Champ came out, a wrestler named Sasha Banks tweeted at me: “Where’s my song, @mountain_goats?” As a territories guy I had to learn her story. I said I’d finish the song by the end of the tour; it took a little longer than that.

Last night Sasha Banks wrestled for the Money in the Bank title, and while she didn’t take it home this time, I’ve learned enough about where she came from and how she got to where she is now to say with confidence: the sky is the limit for you. Your walk is just beginning and the day will come when all your setbacks look like steps on a ladder.

Jon Wurster and I recorded this song at Chris Stamey’s place last week — that’s Chris on bass; I last worked with Chris on the Moon Colony Bloodbath DP. Thanks to Chris for making this happen and to the Boss, Sasha Banks herself, for inspiring us all – to learn about you and to write this song was a real honor for me.

Dedicated of course to Sasha and to everybody who’s even had a hint of what it looks like when your dreams start pushing their elbows through the gauze into the real world of blood & sweat & bone.

The MGs always take care of their fans, they don’t have to do a ot of the things they do and they always do it with quality writing and craftsmanship.
Released June 18th, 2018
John Darnielle – Guitar, keys, vocals
Jon Wurster – Drums and Percussion
Chris Stamey – Bass

Listen to John Darnielle’s early solo Mountain Goats albums — those raw-nerved, stripped-bare, white-knuckle, guy-and-guitar recordings he committed to warped cassette tapes all those years ago — it’s hard to imagine all the creative side roads he’d one day follow. In the years since a polished band slowly materialized around him, Darnielle has filled out his discography with ambitious concept records like a mournful and fatalistic set of songs named for Bible verses (2009’s The Life Of The World To Come) and 2015’s Beat The Champ, in which Darnielle delves into the little-known underworld of pro wrestling.

For the Mountain Goats‘ 16th full-length album, Goths, Darnielle once again takes a conceptual detour. As its title suggests, it’s about growing up goth — about establishing a place for yourself among other outcasts — but it also finds the band shedding guitars and adding a fourth permanent member in multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas. Each of those changes proves important: Thematically rich enough to encompass everything from radio-sound tracked summer road trips to memories of drugs and debauchery to the lessons learned from the splintering of the band Gene Loves Jezebel, Goths makes bold moves in its subtly vibrant sound, which here revolves largely around piano and Douglas‘ woodwind arrangements.

On many of the Mountain Goats‘ most recent records, bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and an assortment of gifted producers have helped give Darnielle’s compositions a curiously pristine, sometimes muted quality, and Goths continues in that vein. But the band has never seemed quite as peppy it does in spots here. Though the album opens with “Rain In Soho,” in which members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus provide a doomy backdrop for Darnielle’s dark and gripping observations, elsewhere, playfulness emerges in the sound.

In “The Grey King And The Silver Flame Attunement,” Goths’ themes of aging in the underground are summed up beautifully in seven ambivalent words (“I’m hardcore / But I’m not that hardcore”), which Darnielle sings in a tentative whisper as woodwinds whistle and lilt alongside him. There’s a sunny quality, in both the words and the arrangement, that can only upend expectations. Similarly, the mission statement “Wear Black” sways along with a doo-wop vibe that keeps darkness at arms’ length. For John Darnielle, goth isn’t a sound or a style so much as a state of mind: a source of comfort and connection for the young and lost, sure, but it needn’t leave your side as you age, either.