It’s been a long time since I posted on music. Last year I spent much of my limited listening time close to home, with old familiars like Frank Black, Tobin Sprout and Guided By Voices.
I’m finally out and about again exploring some new bands. My find of the moment is the Mountain Goats — a “group” that seems largely the work of one guy and his pals, though the current album, “We Shall All Be Healed,” features a band on many tracks. John Darnielle sings in an adenoidal clip — as if you took the voices of either of the Johns from They Might Be Giants and stre-e-e-tched it high and wide. The full-band tracks take tried-and-true Velvet Underground riffs and layer sharp, angry poetry over them, half spiritual yearning and half cold-water-in-the-face reality. The solo acoustic tracks push that poetry at you without the rhythm section’s consolation, in simple threadbare grace. (One song, “Mole,” begins, “I came to see you up there in intensive care — they had handcuffed you to your bed,” with the narrator repeating the chorus: “I am a mole, sticking his head above the surface of the earth.”) Sacred and mundane get thrown together even in the song titles, like “Palmcorder Yajna,” which weds its obscure name to an almost unbearably catchy tune.
Now I need to go explore the rest of the Mountain Goats catalogue, which, from what I’ve read, seems to feature a lot of solo-acoustic recordings made on a whirring boombox in a bathroom. If they’re half as good as “We Shall All Be Healed,” I’ll be happy.
Bonus find: If you loved the Feelies as I did, you’ll be glad to know that you can now get specially custom burned CDs of Feelies spin-off band Yung Wu’s solo full-length effort, “Shore Leave,” here. Different vocalist, same great guitars — and cool covers of Brian Eno obscurity “Big Day” (that bouncy song about Peru from his collaboration with Phil Manzanera) and Neil Young classic “Powderfinger.”
UPDATE: “Palmcorder Yajna” appears to be available as a free download on Amazon. Beware — it’s one of those songs that plants itself in your brain and stays there.
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