The Mountain Goats
The Life of the World to Come


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
September 29th, 2009 | 19 replies | 11,569 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Another year, another Mountain Goats album, and another strong contender for folk album of the year.

Another year, another Mountain Goats album. The constantly metamorphosing folk project of singer/songwriter John Darnielle, The Life of the World to Come is their 17th album in 18 years, an impressive number for any band, much less one man. Coming a little over a year and a half after 2008’s excellent Heretic Pride, Life features Darnielle turning to that massive old tome which has fascinated and ensnared many a bard before him: the Bible. A concept album of sort, each title in this twelve-song set is named after a particular verse relating, in one way or another, to the intensely personal, highly literate tales that have become the Mountain Goats’ hallmark.

But lest you think Darnielle has become Christian rock’s newest poet, consider that the Mountain Goats have always worked their best magic under practically hymnal conditions, intertwining Darnielle’s heartbreakingly honest, slice-of-life lyrics and colorful metaphors with subtle instrumentation and mellow folk. Taking up where 2005’s Get Lonely left off and eschewing the fleshed-out (for the Goats, anyways) production of Heretic Pride, this latest nails just what makes the Mountain Goats such a long-lived project in a world that really doesn’t reward intelligent, thoughtful songwriting. From the somber strumming of opener “1 Samuel 15:23” to the soft boil of dark closer “Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace,” Darnielle uses the templates of these passages to reflect on his own life experiences, to meditate on the struggles and triumphs that mankind goes through every day and, in doing so, creates an album that strikes right at the core of the human condition.

This may sound unbearably pompous to strangers of Darnielle’s work, but it’s his straightforward way of doing things and imitable way with words that immediately disarm. After you’ve heard his fragile voice crack without any sense of self-consciousness on the frantic build-up of “Psalms 40:2” or heard his tragic recollection of a loved one’s cancer and death on the poignant “Matthew 25:21,” it becomes obvious that Darnielle remains one of (if not the) best songwriters of his generation. The understated production here serves only to reinforce the strength of the words at the forefront, as the Life of the World to Come is almost brazen in its stylistic singularity, maintaining the same basic mix throughout of acoustic guitar, a heavy dose of piano, and some string and orchestra flourishes courtesy of Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett. This leaves Darnielle and his wavering, all-too-imperfect vocals to sink or swim on their own. And whether he’s singing an earnest tale of love on “Genesis 30:3” or narrating the thoughts of a lonely prisoner in “1 John 4:16,” Darnielle is more than capable of keeping himself afloat.

To be fair, the Mountain Goats shtick does get tired over the course of the album, particularly the sobering stretch of tunes that begins with the aforementioned “1 John 4:16” and continues through “Deuteronomy 2:10.” The similar feel of the down tempo tunes tends to blend into one each other, making it unfortunately difficult to tell the songs apart from each other, at least musically. Nor is Darnielle committed to creating a record that will appeal to the casual listener; The Life of the World to Come is an album in the truest sense, with perhaps only “Genesis 3:23” and “Philippians 3:20-21,” with their comparatively lively pop structures, making a case for single-worthy status.

Nevertheless, what Darnielle does best is write songs that can resonate with anybody, no matter their musical disposition, and in that respect Life is a tremendous success. With some of his most naked writing in years focused by the narrative framework of the Bible and a return to the sparse accompaniment that characterized their earlier works, Darnielle and company have again created a strong contender for folk record of the year.



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user ratings (117)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
fogza (2)
An album which drowns in ill-conceived sentimentality....


Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



10239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stream is: http://www.colbertnation.com/home

awesome record

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



6085 Comments


been a pretty "another _________ album" kind of year

fromtheinside
September 29th 2009



17647 Comments


excited for this.

Digging: Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



10239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

indeed, 2009 is kicking ass

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



15727 Comments


been a pretty "another _________ album" kind of year


lol

Digging: A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



17195 Comments


this is good but nowhere near the quality of the stuff he put out from 1997-2005

Waior
September 29th 2009



11425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hell yeah.

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



10239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

word to that adam. get lonely is his high point imo

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



17195 Comments


to each their own. Get Lonely is probably one of my least favorite mountain goats albums. the whole hushed vocals thing bugged me. my favorites are The Coroner's Gambit and We Shall All Be Healed.

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2009



10239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

healed is also up there, good call

joshuatree
Emeritus
September 29th 2009



3743 Comments


have this, haven't listened yet

scotish
September 30th 2009



835 Comments


track titles alone make me want to get this. good job on the review.

illmitch
September 30th 2009



5429 Comments


i loooooove the mountain goats, although i prefer their earlier material (especially All Hail West Texas and Ghana). i need to get this. quality review.

kitsch
October 11th 2009



5107 Comments


whoa didnt even know this came out.

must get

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2009



10239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this could use more press, but darnielle remains the master at flying under the radar

Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 1st 2010



17195 Comments


Matthew 25:21 reminds me of my grandpa : (

BigTuna
October 1st 2010



5154 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this and sunset tree for best Mountain Goats imo

Digging: Braid - No Coast

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2011



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

no one does piano tracks better

wabbit
January 18th 2013



6975 Comments


god this is good



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