Review: The Mountain Goats please fans, confuse new listeners with ‘Transcendental Youth’

Michael Bragg

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

The Mountain Goats’ latest endeavor “Transcendental Youth” satisfies listeners’ expectations of their typical albums.

“Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive,” singer John Darnielle boasts at the opening of the album in “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator I,” an instant-classic upbeat anthem that rings typical of the group’s triumphant tendencies.

Immediately following this, “Lakeside View Apartments Suite” brings the mood right back down with quiet piano and Darnielle’s well-known “inside voice” singing of a PCP addict trapped in a cycle of self-destruction.

This mixture of anthems versus ballads versus fleeting depressive character studies results in the sort of emotional roller coaster that fans have learned to love from this folk-rock group.

Most of the album, both thematically and musically, is what is expected from the rest of the band’s continuous line of work, but while melodies do sound overly familiar in the context of previous albums, it works just as it always has. Even in the songs that diverge from the strict Mountain Goats formula, there is something of a sense that we’ve heard it all before.

That said, a new element has been added to this album.

Horns, and lots of them.

At times this addition feels as if it could aid in creating a bouncy, more upbeat contrast to the ever-depressing lyrics, but most of the time they only swell and fall in response to the expected eerie chord progressions.

In songs like “In Memory of Satan,” the horns sound a little over-orchestrated, but knowing the Mountain Goats, it is possible that they don’t want the listener to feel too comfortable with their music.
As a band that releases a new experiment every year, the Mountain Goats can definitely afford a few misses like this.

Overall the album, as most of their albums by this group do, gives off a sense of hope in hopelessness. While not entirely rewarding to new listeners, those who know what to expect from the Mountain Goats should emerge feeling that their depressing pop-folk cravings have been satisfied.

Rating: Three out of four stars

Story: LOVEY COOPER, A&E Reporter