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All Eternals Deck - The Mountain Goats

Mar 6th 2011
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All Eternals Deck - The Mountain GoatsThe Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck
Score: 86








Two years after releas­ing their 12th LP, the excel­lent The Life of the World to Come, The Moun­tain Goats is releas­ing its newest album, All Eter­nals Deck, which comes out lat­er this month. All Eter­nals Deck doesn’t quite match up to the suc­cess of The Life of the World to Come, but that doesn’t stop it from being an impres­sive album. Above all, All Eter­nals Deck is cer­tain­ly more of what Moun­tain Goats does best - and giv­en their his­to­ry, that’s nowhere near a bad thing.

The instru­men­tals are real­ly where All Eter­nals Deck falls short of the mark The Moun­tain Goats has set for itself. There is lit­tle actu­al­ly wrong with those of this album, but they’re not quite at that lev­el of excel­lence they have been in the past. The instru­ments rarely car­ry their own melodies on All Eter­nals Deck instead focus­ing on sup­port­ing the clear focus of the album, the lyrics.

The instru­men­tals can’t be fault­ed for forc­ing out the more curi­ous lines, such as “Damn these vam­pires…” on the track of that name, but it gets to be dis­ap­point­ing when the instru­men­tals don’t do much more. They set the mood beau­ti­ful­ly, they’re at least some­what diverse, they sound entire­ly pleas­ant, and they don’t do much more. On The Life of the World to Come, the instru­men­tals would dri­ve tracks, often force­ful­ly, in unique and fas­ci­nat­ing direc­tions, and that’s sim­ply not the case here.

As always, John Darnielle’s voice imparts a sort of wist­ful excite­ment to every part of All Eter­nals Deck. Intense at one moment and rem­i­nis­cent at the next, Darnielle gives All Eter­nals Deck an emo­tion­al back­bone that is unique­ly his own - nev­er over-wrought or over-sub­tle, but instead the per­fect mix of over­ture and sub­tle­ty to irrev­o­ca­bly weld each image into the listener’s mind. It’s an expe­ri­ence that Darnielle has cul­ti­vat­ed now for over two decades, and it’s one that All Eter­nals Deck wields expert­ly.

Darnielle match­es excel­lent vocals with equal­ly well-con­ceived lyrics, fill­ing All Eter­nals Deck with metaphor and imagery that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly fan­tas­tic and mun­dane. Even the vam­pires of “Damn These Vam­pires” are some­how relat­able, less Drac­u­la and more force of nature that they are. That sort of rela­tion­ship with real­i­ty fol­lows through All Eter­nals Deck, from the image of “Rooms with heat lamps / Where the snakes get born” to the vis­cer­al nar­ra­tion: “Rum­mage through the gut­ted store­house now / And lick the sweat from my brow… Feel the prick­ings of my con­science in my chest every now and then.” As an album, All Eter­nals Deck nev­er fails to tell enthralling sto­ries.

All Eter­nals Deck could very well be Darnielle at his best as singer-song­writer, but it’s cer­tain­ly not The Moun­tain Goats at its best. As good as the lyrics and vocals are, that’s not all there is to an album, and All Eter­nals Deck is there­fore cer­tain­ly not per­fect. Even still, The Moun­tain Goats has once again record­ed an extreme­ly strong album, and they do deserve quite a bit of praise for it.


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