Friday, February 5, 2010

The Mountain Goats

For a while now I've wanted to do a post about the Mountain Goats.  I've managed to find some time so here it is.  The Mountain Goats is a band lead by John Darnielle.  For all practical purposes John is the Mountain Goats.  For the first few years he was very prolific song writer.  I went through my playlist and counted 463 unique song titles, and I am sure there's at least 100 that I don't have.  I feel his career can be broken into three eras.

Around 1992 he released his first cassette "Taboo VI: The Homecoming".  In the first few years he released at least 10 distinct tapes.  These all have a distinct lo-fi feel to them.  The quality though, is decent.  Many songs feature no guitar and instead have a keyboard beat which he sings over.

The next era I would say starts with the 4 song never released EP Jack & Faye in 1995.  This is the time I notice his first band member, Rachel Ware, singing backgrounds.  I must note I do believe she played bass in earlier recordings, but this is where I notice her singing.  This is probably my favorite era.

In 2002 with the release of Tallahassee the Mountain Goats moved into the modern era.  Major changes include end of recording on his Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox, the addition of two actual band members, and an obvious improvement in sound quality. This would be the point where you could say he "sold out" if you were the kind of person that likes to do that.  He had up to this point, released at least 300 songs, so it's probably fair to cut him some slack for wanting to change musical styles.

So now that we've covered a brief history here are my top 10 albums by songs/plays:
The Mountain Goats - Zopilote Machine
The Mountain Goats - Jack & Faye
The Mountain Goats - New Asian Cinema
The Mountain Goats - Full Force Galesburg
The Mountain Goats - Nine Black Poppies
The Mountain Goats - Songs For Peter Hughes
The Mountain Goats - Songs About Fire
The Mountain Goats - Ghana
The Mountain Goats - Devil in the Shortwave
The Mountain Goats - The Coroner's Gambit

And my top 25 songs by plays:
Orange Ball of HateZopilote Machine
Young Caesar 2000Zopilote Machine
Raid On EntebbeJack & Faye
Going to BristolZopilote Machine
Bad PriestessZopilote Machine
Grendel's MotherZopilote Machine
Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac?Zopilote Machine
Song For Tura SatanaZopilote Machine
AdairJack & Faye
Alpha IncipiensZopilote Machine
Going to LebanonZopilote Machine
It's All Here In BrownsvilleFull Force Galesburg
Alpha Sun HatZopilote Machine
Sinaloan Milk Snake SongZopilote Machine
Going To GeorgiaZopilote Machine
Noctifer BirminghamGhana
The Black Ice Cream SongZopilote Machine
Quetzalcoatl Eats PlumsZopilote Machine
Orange Ball of LoveZopilote Machine
Alpha In TaurusZopilote Machine
MasherFull Force Galesburg
Weekend In Western IllinoisFull Force Galesburg
Treetop SongNew Asian Cinema
Standard Bitter Love Song #7Zopilote Machine
US MillFull Force Galesburg

A word of caution about this song data, first off many of his early songs are re-released on compilations meaning that I have two copies of them, and that their play counts are effectively cut in half.  Second, this data is less than a year's worth.  It'd be much different if it included the first few months I started listening to the Mountain Goats.  There are many songs which I know should be way higher in the play counts but aren't for whatever reasons.  I'm tempted to make a list of songs to supplement the above list, however I fear it would be 400 songs long.  Instead I'll make a list of albums independent from the above list:
The Hound Chronicles - A good sampling of his early era work.
Zopilote Machine - This was the second album I got after Sunset Tree, and where I realized his old stuff blew his new stuff away.
Nothing For Juice - This is vastly under represented in my playcount because I have it in my car, and as such tend not to listen to it on the computer.  In particular I feel this best highlights Rachel's backup vocals.  The last four songs are the highlight of the album.
Full Force Galesburg - Almost every song on this album I would describe as a favorite.
New Asian Cinema - Five song EP, my copy is ripped from a vinyl and has the crackle and pop that goes with it.  Normally I'm not a vinyl snob but it complements these songs quite well.  The last song, Treetop Song, is easily in my top ten.
The Coroner's Gambit - While every song is great, Family Happiness rises above the rest as the definitive dark Mountain Goats song.
Protein Source of the Future...Now!; Bitter Melon Farm; Ghana - Three compilation albums.  Maybe it's unfair to list three albums totaling 83 songs as a single item, but too bad.  They offer a great mix of all his early work.
We Shall All Be Healed - Far and away my favorite modern era album.

So there it is.  Ten albums, and I don't know how I kept it to only ten.  However, writing this post has made me realize there is truly only one way to listen to Mountain Goats.  Get every album that isn't live, put in one playlist, set to random, listen until heat death of the universe.

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