The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-04-26
The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons
The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

The lengthy discography of John Darnielle’s veteran indie rock band the Mountain Goats, has spanned decades and genres with above average results. The sound of the Goats has always been more subversive than contemporaries like The Hold Steady or even Okkervil River. Darnielle’s lyrics have managed to be prescient while not being too kooky or silly. The narrative told on the latest offering In League with Dragons is a rock-opera, about, you guessed it… dragons.

Affectionally dubbed “dragon noir” by Darnielle in the album’s announcement, In League with Dragons weaves in and out of the lore behind dragons – focusing on the fictional town of Riversend, a community by the sea. The concept is silly, no doubt, but despite this Darnielle lovingly whips from track to track with the utmost precision. And while there’s definitely no equivalent to Led Zeppelins’ “Ramble On” here, the heavy-handed themes of death and depression, and impending doom are sturdily composed in conjunction with soft ooohs and ahhs, like on early highlight “Younger.”

The whole album is structured this way, as Darnielle flexes his Dungeons & Dragons affliction, but also couples each round with beautiful melodies. So, silliness aside, this is one of the more gorgeous Mountain Goats records in recent memory, even in the moments of pure retro like the outro to “Cadaver Sniffing Dog” where not only are we transported to the plains of Ireland, but it’s also the 1980s again. Darnielle’s always managed to make the Goats sound like a folk-lore indebted band, which is probably why there’s such a devout following for the Mountain Goats over the years. Dabbling in the sounds that popularized bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, but standing the test of time, Darnielle’s produced another moderately enjoyable album for his beloved band. The elements of folk and country are melded seamlessly with the 80s synths but topped off with pianos and saxophones.

I’m not a particularly big fan of the Mountain Goats. The subject matter of most of their albums leaves me bored, and I’ve only really appreciated All Hail West Texas. But here, The Mountain Goats sound is enjoyable, even if the subject doesn’t interest me. I think it’s telling of the songwriting talent from Darnielle that something so dull can be made so comfortable and alluring. “The Antidote for Strychnine” resonated with me much longer than I expected, and it’s by far my favorite track on the album. Its slow-burning beginnings, moody atmosphere, and single repetitive beat make it the centerpiece on an album that’s brimming with so many stylistic pivots. In League With Dragons probably won’t attract new fans, but it’s another good album by Darnielle, whether you can take the concept as legitimate or not.

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