The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here (2021) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 46:40 minutes | 0,99 GB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Merge Records

When the Mountain Goats got together in March 2020, it was to make not one album, but two. The idea was to again work with Matt Ross-Spang, the dashing Memphis wunderkind. Matt pitched we spend a week at Sam Phillips Recording, his home base in Memphis, followed by another at the storied Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a plan that dovetailed nicely with John’s notion of corralling these songs into two complementary batches: one light, one dark. The Memphis album Getting Into Knives, would be brighter, bolder, marked by rich and vibrant hues; the Muscle Shoals album Dark in Here, is quieter, smokier, but more deeply textured and intense. We were all aware of the mythos surrounding Fame. The second you step inside you transport to its early ’60s heyday and its louche mid-’70s denouement. The room we set up in is the room where Percy Sledge sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” and where Aretha Franklin recorded “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” The Wurlitzer with which Spooner Oldham opens the last? It’s sitting right there. Spooner is living musical history, having played with everyone from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Linda Ronstadt and Liberace, for crying out loud. And Spooner is all over Dark in Here any time you hear a bit of Hammond organ or electric piano chiming in without repeating a phrase. We tracked the album’s one outright banger, “The Destruction of the Kola Superdeep Borehole Tower,” live with Spooner, and “Mobile” and “Dark in Here” with guitarist Will McFarlane another local veteran who played with Bonnie Raitt for years. We only had Spooner for two afternoons, though, and Will for just one. After it was just the four of us: John playing acoustic guitar and occasional piano, the rhythm section of drummer Jon Wurster and myself, and our jack-of-all-trades Matt Douglas picking up everything else. The result is something more stripped down and intimate than the lush arrangements of Getting Into Knives. Of “The Slow Parts on Death Metal Albums,” John concedes that the song is autobiographical. While the lines, “In a new universe / trying to find the mask that fits me” would take on a newly literal connotation in the weeks to come, the song is about going to late ‘80s metal shows at Fender’s Ballroom in Long Beach, and about seeking a sense of identity and community in strange and occasionally forbidding places. This theme feeling at once conspicuous and invisible, the frustrated craving for acceptance is echoed elsewhere. Then there are elegies to lost causes, some big and institutional (“The Destruction of the Kola Superdeep Borehole Tower”), some small and personal (“Arguing With the Ghost of Peter Laughner About His Coney Island Baby Review,” a tribute to David Berman, whose return from self-imposed musical exile had been cause for huge celebration in our camp). “Before I Got There” neglects to identify its victims, or the tragedy that’s befallen them.

John writes in the liner notes that “if you’re looking for a governing theme here, it’s calamity, as all the songs are either anticipating one or reflecting one that’s already happened.”

Bob Dylan recorded Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde during an 18-month hot streak in 1965 and 1966, which is widely (and justly) regarded as one of the most impressive fusions of quantity and quality in the history of rock music. John Darnielle doesn’t appear to be gunning for Dylan’s status as rock’s most venerable man of letters (even though he can honestly say he’s a better novelist), but it’s worth noting Darnielle managed to crank out three excellent albums between April 2020 and June 2021 with his group the Mountain Goats, a hat trick he should point to with pride. Adding to the pleasant surprise, the third Mountain Goats in this run, 2021’s Dark in Here, is the best of the three, the work of a man with stories to tell and the skills to make something special from them. Darnielle is a songwriter with a taste for concept albums, and while these 12 tunes don’t have a clear thematic connection, they share a common mood: paranoia. Practically everyone in Dark in Here has some sort of secret, a fundamental truth they cannot or will not share, and they’re guarded in the extreme as they try to suss out this conspiracy theory or that action from some shadowy other goings on. It’s hard to tell if these folks are engaged in espionage or just think people are out to get them for no good reason, and that’s part of what makes these stories so fascinating — Darnielle allows each protagonist to show us what’s going on in their mind, and then gives us the choice of deciding just how divorced from reality they may be. Darnielle’s bone fides as a songwriter are a given at this point, but his talent for record making has begun matching his skill as a tunesmith and vocalist, and his regular collaborators — multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas, bassist Peter Hughes, and drummer Jon Wurster — are remarkably sure hands with nuance, and as capable of exploring the space and making their way back as any first-class jazz ensemble. And whoever got the idea of bringing in Muscle Shoals legend Spooner Oldham to contribute additional keyboards deserves a raise. Without drawing undo attention to himself, Darnielle has been moving from strength to strength as one of indie rock’s most vital and original talents, and Dark in Here demonstrates he’s working at the top of his game and it’s a joy to hear. Let’s just hope there’s no motorcycle accident in his future. – Mark Deming

1. Parisian Enclave (01:25)
2. The Destruction of the Kola Superdeep Borehole Tower (03:20)
3. Mobile (03:42)
4. Dark in Here (03:23)
5. Lizard Suit (04:15)
6. When a Powerful Animal Comes (05:26)
7. To the Headless Horseman (03:54)
8. The New Hydra Collection (02:28)
9. The Slow Parts on Death Metal Albums (05:26)
10. Before I Got There (04:14)
11. Arguing With the Ghost of Peter Laughner About His Coney Island Baby Review (03:57)
12. Let Me Bathe in Demonic Light (05:10)