Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mountain Goats - Get Lonely

I remember once hearing that the experience of loneliness makes everything around you seem sharper, more vivid, a sentiment I have to agree with.  And, no album I've heard captures this feeling like Mountain Goats  2006 masterpiece Get Lonely. 

The restlessness, the freedom, the desperation, the hunger of loneliness is in the albums every aspect.  The production is crisp and dry, the guitar played softer than one would expect form from singer songwriter John Darnielle, the backing instrumentation slow and spare except when used to signal the narrators claustrophobia and paranoia, to capture the transient joy of a painful recollection, or to express a sort of forced, by your boot straps, type of motivation he only half believes in.  The album FEELS lonely which may be the majority of its magic. But, the lyrics, oh man, the lyrics.

No one is around. Only traces of people.  Faint screams from a high school football game, the noise of traffic, flood lights, convenient stores, dream people, anonymous crowds, ghosts of memories, strangers, threatening villagers, and most importantly, not the woman who has left him to his own devices.

"Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy"...the titular wisdom of the 2006 film Old Joy...which ive just watched.  This is a particularly accurate sentiment for Get Lonely's narrator who spends half the album inhabiting the home they made, every detail aching with her absense. " The first time I made coffee for just myself, i made to much off it/but i drank it all just cuz you hate it when I let things go to waste/and i wandered around the house like a little boy lost at the mall/ and an astronaut could have seen the hunger in my eyes from space".  He tries to escape into the world and find something to connect with "i will find and a crowd/ and blend in for a minute/and i will try to find/ a little comfort in it" but  he only looks for her face in the crowd.  He tries to clean house "whole boxes of memories left out at the curb/what are the years we gave eachother/ ever gonna be worth".  Even his dreams give him fresh glimpses of the past to pine over.  There is no escape, the pain in the joy, the joy in the pain.

The album creates a frosty landscape, vivid, unmistakably real and present.  The imagery is cold and dry.  One can almost see Darnielle's icy breath coming through the tracks.  When the albums final track In Corolla comes around with the narrators metaphorical or perhaps actual sinking down into the warm comfort of a brackish lagoon and bringing the water into his lungs, it's a bitter sweet moment.  "The sun was sinking into the atlantic/the last time that i turned my back on you/I tried to summon up a little prayer as i went under/it was the best that I could do/and i said Let them all fair better than your servant/the reeds all pricking at my skin/heres hoping they have better luck than I did down here with them/all that water rushing in."

 Its also been suggested that in the lonlier periods of your life that music becomes more important.  Perhaps its a needed distraction.  Perhaps in more shapeless times one looks for signs of ones self, bits of wisdom, answers to questions that emerge only as feelings or hunches.  Ones eyes are opened wide taking everything in, nothing is certain, everything is at once more threatening and potentially liberating. Discovering a new album, a new band, one can relate to in many ways can be like finding a new friend, slowly you learn more about them, it can be disappointing or it can reaffirm the bond.  I've recently learned about one of his albums The Sunset Tree and I'm eager to put my brain's ear back into Darnielle and Co.'s capable hands.

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