Why The Mountain Goats Are Awesome

Ransom Riggs

The Mountain Goats are a band, one that has a giant rabid following of nerds and hipsters, but who haven't exactly penetrated mainstream radio -- probably because of the two things that make the Mountain Goats great, songwriter John Darnielle's style of singing, in staccato, sort of shrill little bursts of words, and the subject matter of the songs themselves, which are always a little unconventional, and the best of which knock the listener for a loop. (Pitchfork describes their sound as "passionate nasal-fi," whatever that means.) "Weird," you'll think upon first listen, "I wasn't expecting that" -- and then after a few seconds of confusion you'll either decide you hate it and switch it off or be hooked forever.

Darnielle's a storyteller, and you get the sense that he wrote a lot of bad, angsty poetry in little notebooks as a teenager. Now he writes a lot of good, angsty songs about -- in this case, at least -- being a teenager. If you like songs with lines like "We tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things," the Mountain Goats are for you.

Or this song, which is a bit shocking at first in its strident, unapologetic honesty, and then empowering, and then catchy and awesome. As one astute commenter noted, "This song is like crack!!!"

"Love Love Love" has been stuck in my head for weeks. It's deceptively simple and deeply affecting. I love the simple user-made that goes along with it -- just shots of a rainy backyard. Nice. Note to all YouTubers who put their own video to songs: do stuff like that.

All Hail West Texas is a 2000 album that Darnielle recorded with nothing but an old abused acoustic guitar and a cassette-tape jambox, a squeaky piece of crap with a single mic input that sounds like hell. But he managed to crank out a couple of amazing songs on it, and something about the terrible quality gives it this small town recorded-in-your-bedroom feeling that I'm not sure how he'd get any other way, which feels especially appropriate for songs like this one:

"Woke Up New" is a new one -- and it's the best lonely break-up song I've heard since "A Case of You," which is an almost unapproachably perfect classic, if you ask me. If you've just split up with anyone recently, grab a hankie before listening to this one.