As any lover of lo-fi already knows, the complexity of The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle and his work is vast. He records every album on a living room boombox, has a large backup band despite a very small amount of accompaniment on any given record, and has a penchant for weird lyrics of which he is the only person who can sing them aloud without sounding ridiculous. Like any "band" with a massive discography, The Mountain Goats have been a constant, albeit restrained experiment of sound, much like Songs: Ohia. One record will have a very full sound while still using limited accompaniment (The Coroner's Gambit and All Hail West Texas) and another will feature just John and his guitar playing minimal arrangements, while, perplexingly, still crediting his entire band (Tallahassee), despite the album only containing a couple instances of vocal accompaniment.
Let's say you were to suddenly become interested in this band (in fact, you really should become interested in this band), and decided made a thread at your favorite indie forum about the members' opinions on the band's best album. You'd probably get a lot of votes for The Coroner's Gambit or All Hail West Texas followed by inane, self-assured statements like "hands down," "without a doubt," or "by far," as the bandwagon for any indie band is inclined to do, and a couple of modest suggestions of Tallahassee by a couple boys in da corner who prefer sitting and thinking about music they're listening to without requiring it to move them before motivating these thoughts. Indeed, the former albums are moving; Darnielle's emotions range from anger to frustration to melancholy on the albums, and they are great for these reasons, while the latter just uses a sort of quiet beauty that leaves the songs open for interpretation. The songs on Tallahassee have soul, but Darnielle doesn't exactly wear his heart on his sleeve.
We Shall All Be Healed, the follow-up to Tallahassee, is definitely a return to form, with a few surprises along the way. First of all, it was actually recorded in a studio, and is a Mountain Goats record that actually sounds like the band has the recording budget of a band on a major indie label (4AD), and secondly, the record doesn't feel the need to be very dramatic. While it is by no means as subdued as Tallahassee, the record still doesn't feel like every emotion is spelled out for you, which was what made its predecessor so great.
Highlights include the drunken sing-along "The Young Thousands," "Your Belgian Things," probably the track that most resembles anything on Tallahassee, and "Home Again Garden Grove," the track that definitely resembles most of the songs on Coroner's Gambit. The album feels like a great listen for any of the Mountain Goats's fans, offering the best of both worlds: bandwagon jams of old and corner tunes of new.
8.5 / 10
Posted Feb. 11, 2015, 1:21 p.m.
Update: Due to a herniated disc in drummer Kelly Johnston-Gibson's spine, Ides of Gemini have dropped off all remaining tour dates with The Mountain Goats as well as cancelling ...
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