The Mountain Goats

Break-ups and breakdowns are excruciatingly popular fodder for song lyrics, especially in the more poignant corners of indie folk rock. The prolific and poetic John Darnielle (who's been performing and recording as the Mountain Goats with an ever-changing cast of musicians since 1991) has exhibited a firm mastery of this subject matter, amassing an immense catalog of songs with erudite lyrics that beautifully capture the nature of relationships and their all too tumultuous fallouts. On Get Lonely, Darnielle seems to be recalling such a collapse in retrospect, months or years after a painful split. Most of the songs are sparsely arranged, driven by gentle guitar strumming, simple percussion and the occasional string or bell for emphasis. The deceivingly upbeat "Half Dead," with its bopping, brushed drumbeat and reverb-soaked single-note solo, describes the amount of personal detachment involved in ridding the house of all evidence of your ex- or newly deceased spouse. Much of the album documents the solitude of otherwise mundane activities. On "Woke Up New," Darnielle's temperate whisper recounts the adjustments and aimless routines of a life alone over a soft, shuffling arrangement of acoustic guitar and upright bass. While sections of Get Lonely should have been accompanied by a "Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery" warning, the overall tone never devolves into full-on dirge. "If You See Light" brings a much needed jolt to the record's latter half, with horns and organs bleating softly against a turbulent floor tom roll. If you've ever spent time on the ass end of a bad breakup, Get Lonely will deliver you back to those seemingly hopeless days. And if you happen to be wallowing in the aftermath of a now-defunct partnership, this record is hopeful enough to pull you through.


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