The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

It’s difficult to be objective about your heroes, so when I was first asked to review The Mountain Goats’ latest album I was a bit worried about how to approach it. How do you maintain your critical distance from an artist whose songs have consistently blown your mind and made you laugh, cry and sing for the last ten years or so? The answer is simply that you don’t and just accept that it is okay to gush and hurl superlatives at the greatest and most unsung lyricist and songwriter since possibly forever.

For the uninitiated, The Mountain Goats is John Darnielle and Transcendental Youth is his 14th album. There are no great stylistic leaps forward here and the music is essentially the usual driving indie rock with the addition this time round of some nice horn work. The music as always is unobtrusive and the perfect accompaniment to the main event: the words, songs and voice of John Darnielle.

John’s tales of ordinary people in desperate situations cut deep and, despite the ultra literariness of his writing, his characters always feel real and the songs have a hefty emotional punch. It’s smallest turn of phrase, the way he makes even the clumsiest sounding line so poetic that grabs you and pulls you into his world. In fact rarely has a songwriter managed to create and sustain their own world in such a literary fashion. I would go so far as to say he is the Dickens of songwriters so clearly do his characters belong in and of the world he has created.

Transcendental Youth is yet another great record from a consistently great songwriter. It’s not his best album but it continues an incredibly impressive run of intelligent, literary indie rock that for some reason appears not to have reached a wider audience. Whatever you do though, do not let the songs of John Darnielle pass you by and if you ever get the chance to see him live please do so as I can guarantee that it will be one of the, if not the, best live experiences of your life. Delve anywhere into his extensive catalogue and you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful, touching, angry and life affirming music you will ever hear.


Review by Neil Martin. Contact Neil here.