The Mountain Goats: Get Lonely

The Mountain Goats
Get Lonely

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle—who once noted that his narrative inspiration is Joan Didion's famously incisive novel Play It As It Lays—often seems like a storyteller who also writes music. Last year's The Sunset Tree, Darnielle's come-to-Jesus conversation with his abusive stepfather, was an emotionally urgent album that derived much of its brilliance from heartbreakingly candid descriptions of a teenage kid using music to wall himself off from his toxic home life. On the just-released Get Lonely, Darnielle downshifts from unvarnished anger to weary resignation in order to explore the end of a relationship. More than a breakup record, Get Lonely is a meditation on the quotidian ennui of sudden, unexpected abandonment—rather than Play It as It Lays, Darnielle has instead crafted a companion to Didion's ode to loneliness, The Year of Magical Thinking. "Woke Up New," the album's standout track, struggles with the altered rituals of daily life: "The first time I made coffee for just myself/I made too much of it/But I drank it all just 'cause you hate it when I let things go to waste," Darnielle sings, before repeatedly asking, "What do I do, what do I do, without you?" (Um, make less coffee?) Aside from that song and a few others, however, the album suffers from a musical sameness and lyrical navel-gazing that will be all too familiar to anyone who's ever spent time with someone who just got dumped. Even the video for "Woke Up New" is a solemn affair—there's Darnielle, sitting glumly at his kitchen table, drinking the aforementioned (really large) cup of coffee. Between the simple musical arrangements and a sometimes monotonous delivery, it can be hard to tell where one woeful ballad ends and the next begins. After the swashbuckling, raw feel of his previous album, Darnielle has crafted a calm, meditative work that could easily show up on a Starbucks sampler. Darnielle, coffee drinker, might appreciate that.

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