album reviews

The Mountain Goats
Get Lonely
4AD (2006)

On "Get Lonely," it is obvious how much Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle has changed since his lo-fi albums of the 1990s. He traded the tape hiss of his boom box for the sheen of studio recording several years ago, but here, his percussive guitar has given way to a more melancholy strum, and his bleating howl has softened to a near whisper. Rather than weakening Darnielle's songs, this tempered tone complements the dejection of "Get Lonely": On an album full of post-breakup tunes, the defeat in his voice captures the emotional numbness that accompanies newfound solitude.

Darnielle relates narratives with a literary flair that elevates his lyrics well beyond most singer-songwriters' diaryesque anecdotes, as hazy visions of an ex emerge from vivid descriptions of an empty lot near a gas station on "Moon Over Goldsboro." His simplest sentiments convey some of his greatest heartbreak: As he adjusts to making coffee for one on "Woke Up New," he sounds on the verge of a breakdown with his breathy, wavering "What do I do / What do I do / What do I do / What do I do / Without you?" These quieter, more reflective songs show Darnielle at his most vulnerable -- a mesmerizing shift from the rawness of his earlier sound.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 22 September 2006, Page WE12
.: Get Lonely on