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20 Watts Reviews The Mountain Goats’ The Life of the World to Come by Jeanette Wall

The Mountain Goats' new album proves more spiritual than religious.

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD The Mountain Goats’ “Genesis 3:23” MP3
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Don’t let the track names or album title fool you — this is not a religious album. At most, it is spiritual. It is said to be autobiographical. But, if nothing else, The Mountain GoatsThe Life of the World to Come is heartfelt and meaningful.

A major aspect of this possible concept album is the fact that it is largely based off of lead singer John Darnielle’s life. Lest, when has Darnielle not drawn albums from his own experiences? Listening to The Sunset Tree, for example, you can hear his account of a dark childhood. Here though, he uses parables from the Bible as framework to reflect on his past. Be they stories of love, or death, or the life somewhere in between, Darnielle is reminded of the Gospel.

After 17 albums, it could be unnecessary to say the Mountain Goats’ sound has “matured” or “developed” in any particular way. Darnielle’s voice is still shaky and predictably unpredictable. The music is both dark and light, poppy and folky. However, the lyrics suggest a new sense of enlightenment. While not directly religious in any particular way, this illumination stems from a new perspective on falling in love (“Genesis 30:3”), accepting death (“Matthew 25:21”) and learning how to live happily (“Romans 10:9”).

It could be said that one of the most important tracks on the album is “Genesis 3:23.” On this track, Darnielle describes returning to an old home and remembering the life he lived there. He compares this to the lives that seem to be taking place in the house currently. The passage from Genesis that the title draws from goes, “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” It is as if Darnielle was “banished” from his old home. The song discusses the importance of moving on with life and not dwelling too heavily on the past. What’s done is done.

Overall, the Mountain Goats have produced yet another insightful reflection on all aspects of life and death. The album shows that no matter where this band goes to for inspiration, their music will continue to resonate clear, poignant messages.

— Jeanette Wall

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