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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Mountain Goats
Heretic Pride
4AD

Rating: 8.3/10 ?


May 8, 2008
On Heretic Pride, his latest release under the Mountain Goats banner, John Darnielle has shifted his focus further from the rough-hewn style of his early works toward an increasingly polished sound. At the same time Heretic Pride can be seen as a return to Darnielle's original lyrical form, reverting back to the fictional storytelling that many fans first knew him by.

Darnielle, who once considered himself averse to self-referential compositions, first started to change his songwriting tendencies five years ago, when We Shall All Be Healed chronicled a particularly dark time of his life spent in Oregon. That album began a trilogy of releases that would focus his songwriting closer to home, relating his own experiences and those of the people directly around him. When The Sunset Tree came two years later, Darnielle pointed his pen at the rough relationship with his stepfather, who died two years before. Then not twelve months later followed Get Lonely, full of resignation and heart-rending inward examination following the end of a romantic relationship.

"I've put off writing about this stuff for years, because I'm a little squeamish about milking my own trauma for art, and getting good songs rather than cry-fests from these experiences is a really excruciating process," Darnielle once remarked of his autobiographical conversion.

However it appears that with Heretic Pride the excruciating process of self-examination has passed, as the album returns Darnielle's focus to crafting songs around external ideas and characters rather than his own past experiences. The music is also more weighted this time around, almost orchestral with a full, directional band backing up the literary songwriting that first attracted his listeners' attentions. Three years after The New Yorker labeled him as America's best non-hip-hop lyricist, Darnielle is still adept at creating interesting stories; Heretic Pride's characters range from a spy novel writer to a kid in a Marcus Allen jersey, and the album's thirteen songs are set in places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Stockholm, Sweden.

Full of furious paranoia boxed in by an uptempo ringing guitar riff and violin-filled melodies, "H.P. Lovecraft in Brooklyn" is perhaps the album's strongest song. The poetics of paranoia and isolation is also present on the album's title track, where Darnielle sings, "They come and pull me from my house, and they drag my body through the streets, and the sun's so hot I think I'll catch fire and burn up in the summer air so moist and sweet." Later in the song Darnielle counterbalances those images by proclaiming that he feels "so proud to be alive," a like indicative of the earnestness and optimism that has led many to consider Heretic Pride as his most positive album to date.

Lest anyone think Darnielle has gone all sunflowery and sweet, "New Zion," the album's fifth track, starts with a pseudo drum solo bounding into the arms of an awaiting organ, setting off a song full of characters joining a cult and the dark imagery of ravens and waiting down by the river.

More provocative fare can be found in "San Bernadino," a song about a woman giving birth in a cheap hotel room, and "So Desperate" touches a nerve about two lovers who need each other when they probably shouldn't be in a relationship in the first place.

Darnielle's median voice and stunning metaphorical songwriting have always been the main redeeming factors in his music, and The Mountain Goats' return to the obscurities of fiction is a breath of fresh air for longtime listeners. Bolstered by the sound of a full band, with Heretic Pride Darnielle has created one of his best releases yet.

Reviewed by Christopher Chewning
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Christopher Chewning

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