Tag Archive | "The Mountain Goats"

The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin


The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

Posted on 24 April 2020 by Joe

For the first time in almost two decades Mountain Goats songwriter and frontman John Darnielle has returned to the Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox that served him so well through his early career.

Not since 2002’s All Hail West Texas has this trusted electronic collaborator been dusted off for a Mountain Goats release. Why should it with a stellar band assembled for recent releases and tours, including bassist Peter Hughes, Superchunk drummer John Wurster and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas?

But the sonic scope of last year’s In League With Dragons or another beautifully produced album, 2011’s All Eternals Deck, is simply impossible as Covid-19 locks us down.

Darnielle has instead gone back to his lo-fi roots, pressed play, stood the boombox on one end to avoid a faulty click, worked on a song a day and produced a great album for our isolated days.

Songs for Pierre Chuvin is based on the French historian Chuvin’s book A Chronicle of the Last Pagans. This is Darnielle’s inspiration across a collection that feels that each is written as if a sweeping string section or melancholy set of horns should be heard.

But stripped back it does admirably, showcasing what Darnielle has always done – writes good lyrics with good melody. That’s it. Simple. That’s all you need for a good song.

And on Exegetic Chains we have one of the first great lockdown songs. Is that now even a genre? Take these  lyrics for example:

Keep the chains tight

Make it through this year

…if it kills you outright.

Other highpoints include second track Until Olympius Returns, where he venomously vents at hierarchies, whether pagan temple dwellers or perhaps referring to the politicians mishandling the current crisis. It also features a great “yeah”, which I always like to hear.

There are further parallels across this collection to the pagens’ constant threat to life and the Covd-19 fearing set of online communities we have become. Here we are adjusting to loneliness and blotting out the full impact of those dying alone in hospital.

Digital and Cassette

Songs for Pierre Chuvin is released digitally but also as a cassette in the US. This physical form of the album sold out swiftly with a third edition of a further 2000 copies underway. If any are left over they will be sold at future gigs.

The digital release too is proving popular, especially here in the UK. After its first day it had reached number seven in the album charts, solely on digital sales.

While this is very much a solo album, his bandmates and the whole team of people that rely on income from the Mountain Goats are firmly on his mind. Proceeds of this release will go to them.


By Joe Lepper

For more information visit The Mountain Goats bandcamp page.


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Best Indie and Alternative Albums 2019

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Best Indie and Alternative Albums 2019

Posted on 13 December 2019 by Joe

Our best albums 2019 list features the 15 albums that we can’t stop listening to.

What a year! It’s been beset with political turmoil. But in terms of music its been another fantastic 12 months.

This time around 15 albums have impressed us for our annual round up. This ranges from a return to form for one of our favourite US acts to an intriguing funk concept album about Trump.

Lots of our other top acts over the last few years have also marked 2019 in style with stellar releases. There’s plenty of interesting new acts as well that impressed during the year.

But enough from us. Here’s the 15 best albums of 2019 that we urge you to seek out and investigate yourselves.

15.The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

John Darnielle and co once again excel with  a collection taking in themes of celebrity and this time the mythical heroes of their youth. Here the production is even more sumptious than it has been in recent years, with one of our favourite artists Owen Pallet on production desk duties. Read our full review here.

14. John Howard – Cut the Wire

1 Cover

The singer songwriter’s fierce sense of independence rises to the fore on this collection that has a far greater focus on his 1960s and 1970s musical influences, sitting somewhere between The Beach Boys and whimsical English pop. Read the full review here.

13. Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Jenny Lewis On the Line

We may miss the sparkling pop of Rilo Kiley but Jenny Lewis is still delivering great songs as a solo artist. Continuing on from where 2014’s The Voyager left off she cements her role as one of the best country-pop balladeers around.

12. Stealing Sheep – Big Wows

Stealing Sheep

The evolution of Stealing Sheep continues and any of the more folksy pastoral elements of their first two albums  have been cast aside in favour of a greater pure-pop approach. The good news is that it suits them perfectly, and anyone who has seen them live this year can attest to what a great glittery performance that is. Additionally, ‘Jokin’ Me’ has to be the best song released this year and deserves to be a chart smash (if that even exists as a thing anymore?).

11. The National – I Am Easy To Find


The “stadium band it’s ok to like” continue to deliver the goods on their eight album. An array of guest female vocalists add some difference to the sound this time around and compliment Matt Berninger’s smooth croon perfectly.

10. The New Pornographers – In The Morse Code of Break Lights

New Pornographers

The second Dan Bejar free New Pornographers album in a row may miss his contributions but the rest of the band do their best to make up for that. Simi Stone joins the band, adding a third female vocalist, and AC Newman delivers some pitch-perfect tunes. ‘You’ll Need A Backseat Driver’ is worth the admission fee alone.

9. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountain

Purple Mountains

Purple Mountains is notable as David Berman’s first post-Silver Jews album, and his first recorded work in over a decade. It is also notable as one of the most consistent records of his fascinating career. Sadly it stands as his final work, tragically he committed suicide in August this year.

8. Guided By Voices – Warp and Woof


This is just one of the three albums the prolific band released this year. Originally coming out as a set of EPs the songs are short, urgent and focused. It is a purple patch for the lo-fi legends but this stands out (just) as the best of the bunch.

7. Pip Blom – Boat

Pip Blom

The Dutch indie popsters have a very identifiable sound, and a very appealing one. Their debut album continues on from their excellent early singles and is one of the most enjoyable, and freshest, releases of the year.

6. Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All the Time

Album number five for the Scottish act is full of epic melodies and meloncholy lyrics as they cement their place as one of the most innovate indie rock and alternative bands in the UK. James Alexander Graham’s downright beautiful vocals elevate them even further. VTr and The Arbor are among our favourite tracks here.

5. Penelope Isles – Until the Tide Creeps In

Penelope Isles

Brighton base dPenelope Isles play a melodic dream pop, their debut album has a scope and sophistication that reveals their music school background. In lazy journo style I hereby dub them “the British Deerhunter”.

4. School of Language – 45

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

David Brewis from Field Music turns his attention to Donald Trump and the US far right on this cheeky, funky and in places angry collection. The lyrics left us nodding in agreement and chuckling, while David’s inventive take on his influences of Prince and Talking Heads continues to impress us. Read the full review here.

3. Corridor – Junior

Junior - Corridor

Sub-Pop’s Corridor are a French Canadian band that deliver a pulsing guitar pop that evokes post-punk and the pulsing rhythms of Stereolab in equal measure. It is epic and rhythmic and melodic and one of our favourite discoveries of the year.

2. Fontaines DC – Dogrel

Fontaines DC at Glastonbury 2019, photo by Joe Lepper

Fontaines DC at Glastonbury 2019, photo by Joe Lepper

This  Dublin band’s stunning debut sounds like a blend of Joy Division, The Smiths and the Buzzcocks. While lyrically they are cemented in their Dublin background, especially with Grian Chatten’s powerful vocals. They impressed us so much at Glastonbury 2019 that we rushed out to buy this debut – there’s not many live acts that have the power and talent to do that.

1. Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?


Their best album since 2010’s melody packed release Halcyon Digest? We certainly think so. In fact its filled with even more melody and inventive ways to present a song, veering from classic pop  to alternative rock at will on this all killer, no filler collection.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

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The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Posted on 17 May 2019 by Joe

What an enviable position The Mountain Goats are in. Beloved by fans and garnering new ones with each release. The band – of songwriter and singer John Darnielle, bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – can essentially do as they please.

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

This time around, on The Mountain Goats  In League with Dragons, they are exploring some familiar themes of recent releases. As on All Eternals Deck ( 2011), Beat the Champ (2015) and Goths (2017) celebrity looms large. But this time around the icons are not the likes of Judy Garland, Charles Bronson or Chavo Guerrero. Instead, for some tracks at least, they are the wizards and characters of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Is there any real difference?

To produce, The Mountain Goats have enlisted Owen Pallett – the multi-instrumentalist who used to record under the name Final Fantasy and wrote a similarly obscure and wonderful rock opera of his own dedicated to ‘fantasy’, called Heartland (2010).

It’s a perfect blend with Pallett giving The Mountain Goats room to go off on their flights of fancy. Pallett, who has worked previously with Darnielle and co, even allows the pitch perfect country number Waylon Jennnings Live! to shine.

He also draws out the fine melody of each track  with An Antidote to Strychnine and Scilian Crest  among many high points.

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

Is there a good single? Not really, The Mountain Goats have never really been a singles band, although Cadaver Sniffing Dog is a close contender. But those that adore the soft folk/rock, pop, celebrity and piano of recent album releases will find a lot to love here. As said, an enviable position to be indeed.


By Joe Lepper

For more information visit here – The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons.


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Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain

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Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain

Posted on 24 May 2018 by Joe

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best.

This ninth album from group features some of the strongest personal song writing from leader Will Sheff, something which made other career high points like The Stage Names (2008) so effective.

The band’s 1980s influences, as used so well on The Silver Gymnasium (2013), are also deployed perfectly here once again.

And it feels like a band, rather than just Sheff and some others. That’s because he used the same close knit group that were with him two years ago on tour to promote their Away album.

“It was my favorite touring experience in many years… I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I’ve been able to play music for this long,” says Sheff.


The results are uplifting and even spiritual in places, which is perhaps no surprise as Sheff’s recent visits to Quaker meetings are clearly a huge influence on his life currently.

Opener Famous Tracheotomies is superb. Here Sheff recalls the time of his own windpipe incision as well recounting the variety of celebrities to have also had this procedure.

It’s a track Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle would have been proud of. There’s something so bizarrely life affirming about hearing about the medical records of the likes of Ray Davies, Gary Coleman and Motown star Mary Wells put to a laid back 80s pop funk soundtrack.

There’s some great melodies here too. The Dream the Light is superb enough with its gospel choir and cheesy synths, but is elevated further by its strong chorus.


I had to check that Love Somebody wasn’t a cover of an 80s chart ballad. It sounds so familiar, like I’ve been listening to this on radio for years. Turns out that its definitely Okkervil River, written by Sheff, bassist Benjamin Lazaar Davis and guitarist Will Graefe.

It’s not all 80s FM pop though.

Don’t Move Back to LA with its acoustic guitar picking is a timeless addition to the Okkervil River collection. Just beautiful.

The list of fine tracks goes on across an album of all killer, no filler and one I’d recommend to any Okkervil newbie as a great place to start. That’s not something you can often say about an act that has been around for 20 years.


By Joe Lepper


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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

Posted on 13 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the first part of our end of year round up of the top 20 best albums 2017. In keeping with our ethos of promoting new and diverse music our list contains a raft of independent artists.

Keep checking back over the next few days when we will be revealing who has made it into the Top 10 of our list of  best albums 2017.

20. El Goodo – By Order of the Moose


Welsh psychedelic act El Goodo spent eight years making this pop gem, which puts their own distinct slant on the US garage music scene of the late 1960s.

There’s a cinematic quality too. This makes it sound at times like a cross between a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and the Oompa-loompa songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the good version with Gene Wilder, that is). It Makes Me Wonder is among many high points. A worthy inclusion in our best albums 2017 list.

19. Warm Digits – Wireless World


Newcastle duo Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis’ third Warm Digits album is an electro gem for 2017. Here they team up with a host of guest stars to showcase their squelchy synth music.

Peter Brewis from their Memphis Industries label mates Field Music excels on End Time. So too does St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell on Growth of Raindrops.

18. Nick Parker – Besta Venya


This third album from Somerset singer-songwriter Nick Parker blends the two sides of his live shows perfectly, from upbeat, crowd pleasers, such as Down With the Yoof, to poignant numbers such as Guess I’ll Never Know.

The Other Half at the end of this 12 song collection even takes him to Beatles territory, complete with flugal horn. Read our full review here.

17. Granite Shore – Suspended Second


With Brexit approaching we could perhaps all do with listening to this second album from Granite Shore – the musical project of Nick Halliwell, who runs Exeter based label Occultation Records. Here all our fears of the unknown, the anger (well for remainers at least) of the decision and sense of hopelessness are laid bare.

His savviest move though is to channel these emotions through smart 1970s inspired pop, with legendary singer songwriter John Howard bringing added class with backing vocals and piano on tracks such as Buyer Beware and Where does the sadness come from? . Read our full review here.

16. Ralegh Long – Upwards of Summer

ralegh long

On his second album singer-songwriter UK based Ralegh Long has looked to his early inspirations of 80s/90s college indie rock to produce a decidedly more upbeat affair than his debut Hoverance.

Gone are the pastoral folk subtleties of that first album to be replaced by jangly guitars, smart pop hooks and euphoric choruses, such as on Take Your Mind Back. This best albums 2017 entrant has impressed others too, with the album scooping this year’s HMUK and Pledge Music Emerging Artists Award. Read our full review here.

15. Fazerdaze – Morningside


New Zealand’s Amelia Murray (aka Fazerdaze) emerged as one of the best breakthrough acts of 2017 thanks to this highly impressive debut. While it relies heavily on the C86 indie scene for influence it sounds thoroughly modern.

Signed to New Zealand’s esteemed Flying Nun Records label, she played a raft of gigs in the UK this year to promote this May release, which features highlights such as Lucky Girl.

14. Co-Pilgrim – Moon Lagoon


Mike Gale’s Hampshire and Oxfordshire based band Co-pilgrim has been releasing smart melancholic pop albums for years now, always impressing us. Here he’s dusted off his distortion pedal for a first half of belting 90s US college rock tracks. This includes Turn It Around and You’ll Look Pretty As A Picture….When The Acid Rain Hits Ya.

He then shrinks back into the shadows for a second half of introspection and poignancy. Every home needs at least one Co-Pilgrim album.  This is a great place to dive in to Gale’s world. Read our full review here.

13. The Mountain Goats – Goths


Goths get The Mountain Goats treatment in 2017, with singer-songwriter John Darnielle telling tales from the subculture, daringly with a lounge, jazz feel, complete with sumptuous Fender Rhodes keyboards. Gene Loves Jezebel’s footnote in music history on Abandoned Flesh is among man high points.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s provincial Goth hot spots are given an ode on Andew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds, as Darnielle cements his role as America’s best story teller in song. Read our full review here.

12. Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum


Since he sent us the debut EP from his band Free Swim back in 2010 Paul Coltofeanu has never let us down. Time and again across Free Swim’s funny and perfectly executed pop he has impressed.

Here, in his other guise The Android Angel he excels again, blending club sounds, soundtrack rock and whimsical pop perfectly on tracks such as Cloudless Sky and West Wind.

11. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Even with a stronger focus on synths, and the disappointing lack of Dan Bejar, this is unmistakable as a New Pornographers record. The tunes are as strong as ever.

There’s also a couple of “should have been a top 10 hit” singles among them, including High Ticket Attractions. A.C Newman is in fine voice and with the vocal support of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder it sounds pretty great throughout.

Coming soon: Best albums 2017 Top 10.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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The Mountain Goats – Goths


The Mountain Goats – Goths

Posted on 19 May 2017 by Joe

The Mountain Goats driving force John Darnielle has forged a critically acclaimed song-writing career on his ability to convey the emotions of society’s outsiders.

As a result there is an inevitability about Goths getting The Mountain Goats treatment.


From the addicts on All Eternals Deck (2011) and We Shall All Be Healed (2004), to the small town wrestlers on last year’s Beat the Champ, Darnielle is a story teller who perfectly encapsulates the tragedies and triumphs of life.

This even extends to himself, as a music loving teen escaping into alcohol from an abusive homelife, on The Sunset Tree (2005).

He has also introduced us to characters like Jeff and Cyrus, the tragic young bandmates of All Hail West Texas (2002)’s The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out Of Denton.

To some extent Goths is the continuation of Jeff and Cyrus’ story, of teens finding identity through music. Except here they have grown up and are looking back at their younger selves through older eyes.

Second track Andre Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds encapsulates this. Here the protagonist is drawn back to his past after moving from this provincial goth hot spot in Yorkshire to London and back again.

Other older and former goths question their youthful obsession with darkness and death. Unicorn Tolerance is particularly good at conveying the soft vulnerability underneath those who look odd, morbid and even dangerous to those around them.

The narratives move across the world, from the UK, Berlin, Portugal to the US, which is the main focus We Do It Differently on the West Coast, where an older goth still closely follows the scene.

Goth performers are also featured. There’s a jaded former singer lamenting the changing music industry and his fading star on Shelved. Here he wistfully remembers riding the stage hydraulics and being tethered to a cross with the sad knowledge that such excitement is behind him.

As with All Eternals Deck there are also tales of real life celebrities, such as on Abandoned Flesh where Gene Loves Jezebel’s footnote in music history is the focus.

In terms of musical arrangement the Mountain Goats are on top form here.  Many of the tracks having a lounge, jazz feel, where the older current and former goths are cast as piano singers reminiscing about the good old days.

The use of woodwind, arranged and played by Matt Douglas throughout and a Fender Rhodes keyboard rather than guitar, help too as does the drumming of Jon Wurster.  Bassist Peter Hughes is also a highlight across the album. He even gets to do a traditional goth bass solo on Shelved.

One of the best is opener Rain in Soho, where drama is added by a 16-strong contingent from the Nashville Symphony choir who dropped by from a nearby Mahler rehearsal in Nashville, where this album was recorded.

As with all Darnielle’s subject matter he offers an understanding and poignant interpretation of their highs and lows. This album is particularly effective as Hughes points out, because they themselves are older, former goths.

“While John writes the songs, as he always has, it feels more than ever like he’s speaking for all of us in the band, erstwhile goths (raises hand) or otherwise,” says Hughes.


by Joe Lepper


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The Mountain Goats – Trinity Centre, Bristol (November 17, 2015)


The Mountain Goats – Trinity Centre, Bristol (November 17, 2015)

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Joe

“You saved my life,” shouts one fan to John Darnielle, the songwriter and frontman for The Mountain Goats, towards the end of the band’s blistering set in Bristol’s converted church venue Trinity.

Darnielle, acknowledges the compliment but with perspective. “No I didn’t. You did that, all I did was provide the music you listened to at the time,” he replied.

This exchange is a good indicator of how Darnielle’s story telling song writing style, which always offers hope amidst despair, impacts on his fans.

John Darnielle

John Darnielle

It also shows how much he knows the value of music as a healer, whether he is singing about his own demons, from an abusive home life on the album The Sunset Tree, or about the real, sometimes tragic lives, of his wrestling heroes on the band’s latest album “Beat the Champ.”

This respect for the power of music is also evident in The Mountain Goats live performance here, as it  perfectly blended Beat the Champ tracks with a career spanning greatest hits show across, an at times, frantic hour and 45 minutes.

Darnielle is equally at home jumping around on stage with a full band and leading sing-a-longs on crowd pleasers such as No Children, This Year and Up the Wolves, as he is during the set’s solo middle section, which included an excellent version of 2008’s Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle complete with a discussion about the killing skills of the Nintendo plumber.

This solo section also provided a chance to play some of his older tracks to please the old guard that were evident here. This included Song for an Old Friend, from a 1995 compilation from Pottery Records called The Wheel Method, as well as Waving At You, from 1996’s Nothing For Juice album.


While driven by Darnielle’s songs and stage prescence The Mountain Goats for some time have been a proper band, with Jon Wurster’s emotionally charged drumming and Peter Hughes’ melodic bass now firmly part of The Mountain Goats sound.

Increasingly on record, with albums such as Beat the Champ and All Eternals Deck, there has a good use of horn and string sections as well.

For this leg of the tour they are joined by Matt Douglas on clarinet, sax as well as guitar and keyboards. He is a welcome addition bringing the latest recorded band sound to stage, especially on Beat the Champ tracks such as the epic Heel Turn 2, which has the potential to be as big a live favourite as This Year and No Children.

The last time we saw The Mountain Goats in Bristol was a couple of years ago with just Darnielle and Hughes at the more sedate setting of St George’s Church. To see Darnielle and co for the first time as a pogo-ing rock outfit in a packed venue showed what a truly rich live act they are.

While the life saving ability of their songs is still open to question they are without doubt one of the most life affirming acts around.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper


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The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ


The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

Posted on 15 April 2015 by Joe

A Mountain Goats wrestling album was strangely inevitable. As followers of the band’s frontman John Darnielle on Twitter will know he’s a big sports fan. As followers of their music will also know Darnielle loves to spin a good yarn and wrestling is certainly full of plenty of tales.

Darnielle’s focus here is primarily the characters involved in the sport, both the wrestlers themselves and the fans like him, who as a young boy watched in awe as his heroes tumbled around for glory.


South Western Territory and The Legend of Chavo Guerro offer a bold pair of openers, one painting a melancholy picture of one local wrestler making ends meet and the other a passionate ode to Darnielle’s childhood hero Guerro.

There’s tragedy too on this album. Luna, about a fire in 2010 that destroyed much of veteran female wrestler Luna Vachon’s possessions, is exceptional in its sadness, with Jon Wurster’s shuffling drums and jazz feel offering hope for Luna when all seems lost.

Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan, about the murder of Bruiser Brody, is another weepie, albeit an action packed one, and once again Wurster’s emotive drumming shines through here.

There’s a lot of familiar territory for Darnielle in wrestling. A common theme, in particularly on The Mountain Goats’ 2011 album All Eternals Deck, is the metaphorical masks people wear to hide away from trauma.

Here the masks are also very real as well as symbolic, in particular on Animal Mask and Werewolf Gimmick. Bull Ramos, who features towards the end of story, is another of these mask stories, as he is seemingly fighting for his life in surgery and clings to his carefully crafted image of the brave wrestler with the bull whip throughout.

Musically Darnielle’s arrangements continue to get ever more complex, as elements of classical, jazz and of course the folk and indie rock that the band are most associated with intertwine here.

Darnielle continues to have a fine ear for melody too, although here the killer tunes are back loaded towards the end of the album, with Luna among many picks in its latter stages. In contrast the first half is let down by inconsistency. The Legend of Chavo Guerro is full of driving energy and passion, while Foreign Object and the too long Heel Turn 2 feel more like album fillers.

These are minor gripes though on another album from The Mountain Goats that continues to shine the spotlight on the incredible resilience, wonder and frailty of human beings, from hulking costumed lumps tying each other knots to the wide eyed kids in awe of them.


by Joe Lepper


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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

Posted on 10 July 2014 by Joe

We’ve covered our Top 100 alternative and independent albums, Top 10 debut albums and also compiled lists of our favourite folk and psychedelic albums. But I thought for a change I’d take away the restrictions of time and genre and present a list of my top ten albums as a way of finding out what your Top 10 Albums are. It’s a trickier task than you may think. I have constant nagging doubts that I should have included Lou Reed’s Transformer or Blondie’s Parallel Lines. You will face similar dilemmas. Feel free to tell us your Top 10 albums of all time in the comment box below.

10. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)


Following their huge debut album Licensed to Ill the Beastie Boys second album went in a more experimental direction under producers The Dust Brothers and became one of the best ever examples of sampling. From Public Enemy to The Beatles through to Curtis Mayfield and film soundtracks there are hundreds of snippets that make up each track. The end product is a tribute to music and modern culture and an outstanding album from start to finish. To find out more about the songs and riffs featured on the album click here.

9. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Gorilla (1967)


As a child, back when there were record players and cassettes and MP3s were the stuff of a mad man’s dreams, this was one of a handful of albums I used to beg my parents to play. This debut by art college psychedelic 1920s jazz mash up specialists is fun thanks to the humour of songwriter and vocalists Vivian Stanshall. But above all its got great tunes thanks to the involvement of Neil Inness, who went on to form the Rutles and has an outstanding ear for a good pop song. With tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored regularly used in advertising, TV and film this obscurity from a silly age will be surprisingly familiar.

8. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)


There are autobiographical albums and then there’s The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats and its frontman and songwriter John Darnielle. Here he lays bare an adolescence in the shadow of domestic abuse where he escapes into music, romance, drink and drugs. Its an album about survival and must have taken a huge amount of courage to write. Final track Pale Green Things, recalls the death of his step father and is so emotional and personal he can’t even play it live anymore. It is an impressive piece of work that shows the courage of young people and led me to become a fan of Darnielle and his band ever since. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

7. Fairport Convention- Liege and Lief (1969)


A running theme of the albums I’ve selected is an admiration of the effort that has gone into their writing and production. Fairport Convention Liege and Lief’s was written and recorded following a tragic motorway accident in which their drummer Martin Lamble died and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklin also lost her life. What emerged was one of the most influential folk albums of all time as their mourning, painstaking research into traditional English folk and rock roots came together to create an outstanding set of songs. From Tam Lin to Crazy Man Michael this album is to this day one of the most exciting of any genre.

6. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)


I came late to Bob Dylan. It was something about the voice, the Christianity and whole 1980s rock star image that put me off. Then I saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary centred around his mid 1960s albums and the time he went electric. From Bringing It All Back Home to Highway 61 revisited to Blonde on Blonde it remains my favourite period of Dylan’s music. Of the three Highway stands tallest, just. Like a Rolling Stone is its most well known track but the power of Ballad of a Thin Man and Desolation Row are among those that keep me coming back to this album time and again.

5. The B-52s – The B-52s (1977)


When Rock Lobster, one of the singles from this debut from the Athens based band, was re released in the mid 1980s, I had no idea just how talented they were. I loved Rock Lobster but after getting this debut album I was awestruck. Ricky Wilson’s guitar playing is unique and in they were also blessed with three incredible vocalists, with Ricky’s sister Cindy particularly standing out. Her emotion on Dance This Mess Around and Hero Worship alone are worth the cover price alone. For more about The B-52s read our Top Ten Artists That Changed Our Lives feature here.

4. XTC – English Settlement (1982)


On a monthly basis I kick myself for not including this in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list. Our XTC album of choice was the excellent Drums and Wires. But as the years have gone by it is English Settlement that I now believe was the Swindon band’s masterpiece. Sure it has the singles Sense Working Overtime and Ball and Chain, but it’s the lesser known tracks such as No Thugs in Our House and English Roundabout that really shine here. It was to have opened the door to fame and fortune, but sadly coincided with a chronic bout of stage fright for song writer Andy Partridge who was unable to tour following its release or indeed since. For more about XTC read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

3. The Clash – London Calling (1979)


Of all The Clash albums none are so perfectly executed as their third London Calling. Steeped in Caribbean and US influences this manages to expertly show The Clash for what they were a London punk band with a global outlook. This topped our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list and remains one of my favourite albums thanks to superb lyrics on tacks like Lost in the Supermarket and instant pop appeal of tracks such as Train in Vain. Listening again it barely ages and remains a timeless classic. Read our full review of London Calling here.

2.  David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)


Last year I detailed my surprise discovery that David Bowie wasn’t just a silly man dancing in his pyjamas wth Mick Jagger. He was in fact the coolest man in music as albums such as Low, Heroes and this pre-Ziggy album clearly show. Of all his albums that I’ve recently discovered this is my favourite due to its sheer quantity of classic, inventive pop songs. Any album that has the tracks Changes and All You Pretty Things is deserving of a place on this list. But to add in Life on Mars, Queen Bitch and Quicksand as well makes this album one of the best pop albums of all time..

1. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)


Hey what about Sgt Peppers, Joe? Well, what about it? This seventh UK studio album from the Fab Four is by miles and miles of old George Martin infused studio tape the best Beatles album and in my view the best album of all time. You want pop? It’s got it in Taxman and Dr Robert. You want stunning orchestral melodies? Well, why not check out Eleanor Rigby. Or maybe awesome rock rifts are your thing, in that case She Said She Said will appeal. It’s even got the children’s classic Yellow Submarine, and on Tomorrow Never Knows a track that quite rightly is used to herald the start of counter culture. And then there’s the production with Martin’s backwards loops redefining music. Sgt Peppers is good, but this was the real game changer for modern music.

by Joe Lepper


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The Mountain Goats, St George’s, Bristol (Oct 7, 2013)


The Mountain Goats, St George’s, Bristol (Oct 7, 2013)

Posted on 08 October 2013 by Joe

It was fitting that John Darnielle choose the track Love, Love, Love, from his 2005 album The Sunset Tree to start this first gig in a short UK tour as a Mountain Goats duo with long time bassist Peter Hughes.

From the gallery of this full and magnificent Georgian church venue to the pews beneath, the faces of the 350 or so people in attendance were full of love for Darnielle and his music, which has been part of many of their lives for the last decade or more.

John Darnielle (l) and Peter Hughes (r)

John Darnielle (l) and Peter Hughes (r)

But its not just the songs, with their common themes of self-reliance and overcoming fears, that bring such adoration. Love is also directed at  his and Hughes’s personalities and stage prescence. There were smiles and laughter aplenty as the transfixed audience heard insights into the song writing process and comic tales of performing to just one person in a German venue “as indie was going out and everyone was suddenly into electro music.”

As a duo, due to other commitments of their drummer Jon Wurster, the set was perfectly tailored for a mostly acoustic guitar and bass arrangement, with the black suited and long haired Darnielle switching to the imposing grand piano in the centre of the stage for five tracks in the middle.

It was this piano segment that was the most suited to the venue, with Eziekiel 7 sand the Permanent Efficacy of Grace, from 2009’ The Life of the World To Come a highlight. This tender haunting song about torture in the desert is among his most powerful tracks and even better live. The audience too played their part, with Darnielle and Hughes impressed with their perfectly timed applause just at the end of those magical mili-seconds as the sustain of the piano keys drifted away.


The first gig in this tour meant there were a couple of loose moments, Hughes and Darnielle out of time a couple of times, a forgotten chord here and there, but it didn’t matter. It was all part of the experience as Darnielle and Hughes made this large venue in the heart of Bristol seem like we were sitting around our living room having a chat and a singalong.

Another welcome aspect of this tour was that it wasn’t to promote a specific album. Their last album was 2012’s Transcendental Youth, with most of its songs ill suited to a duo arrangement due to their beautiful horn arrangements by Matthew E White. This made it more of a career retrospective with a chance to play less well known tracks such as Cheshire County, from the 1995 EP Nine Black Poppies as well as the title track from 2008’s Heretic Pride, part of The Mountain Goats successful stint with the label 4AD.

The set ended with a rousing version of Furniture Store, a cover of a song originally by their friend Joel’s band Furniture Huschle, with the crowd standing up and joining in throughout.

Earlier on a member of the audience shouted out “John, it’s been four songs in and you haven’t mentioned Satan yet.” Darnielle laughed as he knew that the opportunity to sing of “the dark Lord” would be too big a chance to turn down as the giant image of Jesus looked down on the stage from behind him in this former church.


It was the encore where that particular fan and the rest of us, who were still standing, were treated to the appearance of Satan. First with No Children, the track from Tallahassee about a loathsome, devilish couple that is surely in most Mountain Goats fans top ten tracks list. Then the gig ended as we had all hoped, with The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton. This tale of two teenagers separated through an archaic attitude to mental health and human expression with its finale singalong of ‘Hail Satan” was just about the only track that could have ended this gig.

Darnielle informs us that he doesn’t plan what to say between songs “and bands that do are the worst people on the planet.” He may not plan his banter but he certainly knows how to use it effectively, as well as plan a set list for a massive church. As he left stage a fan in the front handed him a sketch. Darnielle hugged him warmly then later praised him on Twitter. Love, Love, Love indeed.

 By Joe Lepper

Set List…compiled by Matt Telfer.

Love, Love, Love

Linda Blair was born innocent

Up the Wolves

You or Your Memory

The Diaz Brothers

You Were Cool

Maybe Sprout Wings

1 Samuel 15:23

In memory of Satan


Genesis 30:3

Ezekiel 7 and the permanent efficacy of grace

Cheshire County

Heretic Pride

Absolute Lithops Effect

Woke Up New

Furniture Store (Furniture Huschle cover)

ENCORE – No children, Best ever death metal band out of Denton

See Also: Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives: The Mountain Goats


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