The Mountain Goats

You don't need a critic to probe John Darnielle like a frog in science class; the Mountain Goats front man spilled his guts long ago. Listening to his fantastically touching new album feels like digging through his childhood cedar chest, but what you'll find, set against emotionally heavy piano and vengeful violin, can be hard to digest. Centered mostly on the abuse he endured growing up, Sunset finds Darnielle at peace with the consequences. "Dance Music" pairs giddy acoustic riffs with chilling lyrics, while "This Year" forages through similarly rough teenage memories with the help of firm handclaps, hopeful piano and guitar interaction, and a strong survivor's mentality: "I am going to make it/Through this year/If it kills me." Don't bother dissecting this honest, poignant and perfectly executed record. Just listen.

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Jenny Tatone