Next Friday, bury your worries into the plaintive sound of the Mountain Goats, with the baroque chamber pop of Final Fantasy opening up the night events. The show is Friday, November 13th at Downtown Brew.
The Mountain Goats are one of the more unusual bands to find shelter under the ever-expanding umbrella term of indie rock. Hyper-prolific and militantly lo-fi, there are over a hundred Mountain Goats songs scattered across compilations and label samplers, most of them recorded (by choice) on a department-store boom box. Although many musicians have contributed to Mountain Goats releases, by far the person most identified with the outfit is singer/guitarist John Darnielle. (In fact, many Mountain Goats tracks feature only Darnielle’s nasal bleat and his primitive yet frenzied acoustic guitar.) Taking the name from the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song “Big Yellow Coat,” Darnielle donned the Mountain Goats moniker in 1991 while working as a nurse in a California State hospital and began releasing cassette-only albums for the Shrimper label. Despite attracting a devoted underground following (or, possibly, because of it) the Mountain Goats continued to release songs in cassette form only for many years, using tape hiss as, virtually, an additional instrument.
Lyrics are also essential with the Mountain Goats. Highly literate and full of metaphor, many of Darnielle’s songs fit together to form a larger narrative than they would alone.
On their newest album, The Life of the World to Come, Darnielle muses on the need to believe and keep faith in something as the pressures, horrors, and oddities of life in the 21st century flash by at the speed of a keypad. There is a downcast and deeply meditative mood to this album, though, and the arrangements feature more piano than guitar (and plenty of violin arrangements from Owen Pallett), but Darnielle’s fans don’t need to worry here. He’s still writing finely observed vignettes that manage to intersect life as we live it with life as we wish we could live it, and as such, he has more in common with a short story writer than he does with the typical singer/songwriter. What Darnielle has discovered, though, is that faith has its twin opposite, and it’s called doubt, and thedark, uncertain path between the two is where most of our lives are led.
Canadian violinist/singer/songwriter Owen Pallett has been a member of the groups Les Mouches and Picastro, as well as a touring member of the Hidden Cameras and Arcade Fire. Final Fantasy, essentially a one-man solo project with occasional help from drummer/engineer Leon Taheny, released its first full recording, Has a Good Home, in 2005 on the small Toronto-based cooperative label Club Blocks. With his 2006 album, He Poos Clouds, the one-man classically trained Canadian string section — think Andrew Bird and Patrick Wolf — has created a gem of a baroque pop record that manages to appeal to both the bespectacled hipster and the disgruntled orchestra student. Employing a measured croon caught somewhere between Scott Walker and Louis Philippe with a soft Donovan-esque vibrato, Pallett assumes the position of narrator on the opening track, an ornate snapshot of youthful longing that manages to balance lyrics like “she has a heart that will never melt” and “but the quarry don’t share his taste for Anne McCaffery” with equal parts heartbreak and bravado — he shares more than a little in common, both musically and lyrically, with the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.