The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree

Mike Mantin 02/05/2005

Rating: 4/5

John Darnielle, the talented lyricist and singer behind The Mountain Goats, here swaps the oblique wordplay, which baffled me on previous records, for deeply personal tales of child abuse and broken households from his past. At his most direct ('This Year', 'Dance Music'), it can be difficult to listen to, but the fact that Darnielle has dedicated the album to his abusive stepfather only symbolises the uplifting messages of hope that are also present. Musically, acoustic guitars, pianos and Darnielle's distinctively high vocals mostly lead the typically catchy pop songs, with a few exceptions: 'Dilaudid' finds Darnielle alone with a string section and the Peter Buck-esque mandolin on 'Magpie' wouldn't be out of place on R.E.M's 'Out Of Time'. Don't be put off by lyrics like “as my step father yells at my mother/launches a glass across the room”; this is a truly wonderful record. There's still time to make Darnielle the star he deserves to be.

(originally part of the This Month We Have Mostly Been Listening To... feature)