When a band has mass appeal, I typically find that it’s due to some type of familiarity with one thing about them being either something classic or universal; be it style, instrumentation, emotive themes, or structure. In the case of Durham, North Carolinian’s The Mountain Goats, it’s all of them.
Anthemic, sometimes light, often times dark, with haunting walls of music giving way to paper-thin sheets of acoustic fury… alright, even I think that’s stretching the long train-ride into pretentious-ville. Here’s the deal, we at Nanobot like to focus on who might like the music we’re reviewing. In some cases it can be rather difficult to pinpoint, but I think, at least in the case of Transcendental Youth I’ve got it pinned down… it’s you. That’s right, YOU will enjoy this record. Assuming you have ears and are a mammal… and even that might be pigeon-holing them.
If you’ll pardon the pun, The Mountain Goats have long since been the pet project of John Darnielle, who has been the single constant member in over two decades of music, for many years going it alone as a solo artist. I admit to arriving at the Mountain Goats party rather late, but I will be diving back through their old recordings. This Merge Records artist has so much to them on this record I can only imagine what twenty years of recordings contain.
Among the stand-out tracks on this superbly crafted release are “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1,” “Counterfeit Florida Plates” and “Until I Am Whole”. But if I’m being honest, a well-trained monkey could press the shuffle button while you play this and you’d hail him as the greatest DJ in your group of friends. For example, there is the brilliant jazzy title track that features brushes on the skins, woodwinds, horns, piano and Darnielle’s voice that lends such distinction to this band. Meanwhile, the song “Night Light” features what I believe to be a cello over drums and behind synthesizers and electric guitar in an absolutely masterfully written crescendo of dark and passionate music.
This is what I consider to be a very full record, begging to draw comparisons from far and wide. Folky like Mumford and Sons, musically daring like Murder By Death, experimental like The Postal Service. There are sections in the song “Cry for Judas” that sound like just enough like Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to trip those Tennessee-rooted pleasure centers in my brain.
And now for a moment of confession, I am a sucker for thoughtful lyrics. John Darnielle is in serious danger of making my top 5 list of lyricists, up there is David Bazan of Pedro The Lion and Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip; absolutely wonderful.
I really feel like I’ll bankrupt my vocabulary trying to do this record justice. Simply, it’s great, and is not to be ignored. Save up your nickels and dimes and go buy this record when it comes out October 2nd… then clear your schedule for the evening. Or if you must train aforementioned monkey, clear the 3rd, and spend the evening training it to press shuffle and possibly dancing… name it Nanobot, please.