Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Oct 5th 2009 2:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
The singer-songwriter's struggles with faith form the basis of the Mountain Goats' latest, 'The Life of the World to Come,' which arrives Tuesday via 4AD. The group celebrates the release that night with a performance on Comedy Central's 'The Colbert Report.'
Spare and contemplative, with little instrumentation to distract from Darnielle's harrowing lyrics, the album's 12 songs are named for bible passages and set in hospital rooms, at the feet of deathbeds and along lonely stretches of roadway, among other solemn locales.
On '1 John 4:16,' a condemned Christian awaits either the lion or the electric chair, depending on what century Darnielle had in mind. "If a record starts to feel really dark and raw and a little gory, that's when I'm happiest with it," he says, responding to the question of whether he fears this latest batch of songs will strike some fans as overly depressing.
Darnielle founded the Mountain Goats in 1991, and for years, before enlisting bassist Peter Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster, he was the group's lone constant member. Although Darnielle spent the early part of his career recording hundreds of lo-fi character-driven songs, many of which fit together to form elaborate story arcs, he says the new album is largely autobiographical. "It's so important, when I'm writing in my own voice, that I not sound self-pitying or self-obsessed," he says, detailing some of the challenges that come with drawing from his own experiences.
To Darnielle's credit, even the most devastating of his new songs are more about finding strength and searching for meaning than wallowing in grief. On the heartbreaking 'Matthew 25:21,' Darnielle recalls visiting his mother-in-law as she lies dying of cancer. He turns the tables on 'Isaiah 45:23,' putting himself in the hospital gown and slippers of someone whose recent death, he says, is still too painful to talk -- or even type -- about.
In composing the album, Darnielle traded his usual acoustic guitar for a piano, an instrument that gives many of the selections a somber, hymn-like feel. "That is part of the appeal of writing on piano to me -- it's outside of what's become my comfort zone, so I end up writing in a different style, with an ear to different rhythms and feels," he says.
While the songs may evoke church music, Darnielle, who was raised Catholic and Methodist, admits he's anything but devout. "Ambivalent, for sure, tending toward a sort of atheistic mysticism, if that's possible," he says. "It seems kind of obvious to me that all the gods are the inventions of creatures who've realized that concepts like eternity and infinity have some pretty deep implications, and who need to deal with that."