There is a moment right after the first chorus in “Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace” from which the song can go anywhere. Two piano chords wobble on a tightrope, back and forth, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps the song is just going to end at that point, the soft heartbeat of percussion pulsing more weakly until it goes unheard, succumbing to the implacable fade. This is the world in flux – lives waxing in and out of their parallels, possible futures vying for dominance. Think about how rare it is these days to be genuinely surprised by a song, to sit with bated breath as you wonder where the music is going to take you.
Think about how rare it is for a song to imitate life so exquisitely that it hurts.
What I am trying to delineate here is why I feel bothered when people say something like, “The Mountain Goats are still great, but nothing compares to Darnielle’s output pre-2005.” I can’t count the number of posts I’ve read saying something similar to that. The phrasings may change a little from person to person, but the general idea is that Darnielle made better music when The Mountain Goats consisted mostly of one or two people. Of course, any Darnielle – old or new – is good Darnielle, so my annoyance can never be too great. But his output from 2006-2012 is one of the greatest musical runs ever, and some…