The Mountain Goats: Get Lonely

Do goats get lonely? John Darnielle attempts to explain on the latest bucket drawn from his bottomless song well.

The Mountain Goats

Get Lonely

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2006-08-22
UK Release Date: 2006-08-21

After experiencing indie rock mainstays the Mountain Goats new full-length, Get Lonely, you might wonder about the title. Is “Get Lonely” an imperative, demanding that you get to work on that little cabin by the pond you’ve been conjuring lately, or is it meant to complete a sentence as in, I don’t know, The Muppets Take Manhattan? Head Goat John Darnielle certainly doesn’t sound lonely on the record, surrounded by a seeming cast of thousands in comparison to his early, boom-box recorded early work. Regulars Peter Hughes and Franklin Bruno are here, assisted by cellist Erik Friedlander, drummer Corey Fogel, and producer Scott Solter, all contributing their deft instrumental touches to the quiet storm ambience. The Mountain Goats have been heading this way for a few records now, beefing up Darnielle’s stark, choppy songs with progressively headier production, but Get Lonely sounds ironically their warmest, most subdued, least lonely effort to date, at least on the surface.

First of all, Darnielle’s trademark clipped sing-speak delivery has evolved ever-so-slightly. Just after a pair of isolated piano chords open “Wild Sage”, Darnielle’s voice gently sweeps in over brushed drums and a barely strummed guitar. He still rarely allots more than a single beat per syllable, but the tone throughout is hushed, calm, reflective. Rather than barking or railing out his signature story-songs, Darnielle reins his performance in a bit, which makes considerable sense in context. Last year’s much-heralded The Sunset Tree was intensely personal and cathartic, the rare confessional record as moving for the listener as for its creator. Get Lonely retreats a few steps back from Sunset’s nakedness toward more enigmatic, though no less introspective, narratives. For that purpose Darnielle’s sweeter voice is a welcome evolution. Amazingly detailed lyrics can’t help but be the focal point of any Mountain Goats song, but for the first time, an effort seems to be made to deliver them using more seduction than blunt force.

“Woke Up New” collects what could be considered trivial moments from a post-break-up mess and reveals them to be anything but. “The first time I made coffee for just myself I made too much of it / But I drank it all just ‘cause you hate it when I let things go to waste / And I wandered through the house like a little boy lost at the mall / And an astronaut could have seen the hunger in my eyes from space.” In whispery tones, Darnielle floats out these thoughts over a benign progression, reflecting the calm wisdom and perspective that sometimes accrue over time after shattered relationships. The details are specific and exact, offering the listener surprise as well as recognition, rather than being lamely “universal”. We know instantly, without overstatement, that the dazed wandering about the house is not just because of hyper-caffeination, but what preceded it. This is masterful storytelling, and Darnielle smartly matches subtlety of pen with that of voice.

Earlier songs like the excellent “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton” (from All Hail West Texas) were bleated over strident chords to where you couldn’t help but pay attention to every word. The music felt sometimes just the vessel to get the stories out, the binding of the book. On Get Lonely, it’s a little harder to hear every word because the songs can be appreciated that much more for their musicality. “If You See Light” hearkens back to the punchier days of Texas and The Coroner’s Gambit. But the organ, piano, and horn touches offer distractions that necessitate repeated listens to penetrate the song’s meaning -- and that’s a great thing. I don’t know if the constantly improving production of the Mountain Goats makes them more or less accessible. Longtime fans probably long for the lower-than-lo-fi days, while Entertainment Weekly is crossing their fingers for an orchestra and TV-movie cross promotions. But from the sound of Get Lonely, Darnielle is still drawing the maps and headed right where he wants to go.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.