The Mountain Goats In-depth Biography
The Mountain Goats are one of the more unusual bands to find shelter under the ever-expanding umbrella term of indie rock. Hyper-prolific and militantly lo-fi, there are over a hundred Mountain Goats songs scattered across compilations and label samplers, most of them recorded (by choice) on a department-store boom box. Although many musicians have contributed to Mountain Goats releases, by far the person most identified with the outfit is singer/guitarist John Darnielle. (In fact, many Mountain Goats tracks feature only Darnielle's nasal bleat and his primitive yet frenzied acoustic guitar.) Taking the name from the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Big Yellow Coat," Darnielle donned the Mountain Goats moniker in 1991 while working as a nurse in a California state hospital and began releasing cassette-only albums for the Shrimper label. Despite attracting a devoted underground following (or, possibly, because of it), the Mountain Goats continued to release songs in cassette form only for many years, using tape hiss virtually as an additional instrument.
Lyrics are also essential with the Mountain Goats. Highly literate and full of metaphor, many of Darnielle's songs fit together to form a larger narrative than they would alone. The "Going To..." series, the "Songs For..." series and the "Alpha" series (which chronicles a dysfunctional couple) are some of the Mountain Goats' more notable song cycles. But many of the Mountain Goats' songs stand alone and present Darnielle's skewed take on the mundane. Besides innumerable compilation tracks, the Mountain Goats have also released many 7" singles for over a dozen labels. Their full-length albums include Nine Black Poppies and Zopilote Machine (both released in 1995), Sweden (1996), Full Force Galesburg (1997), and Nothing for Juice (1997). Protein Source of the Future...NOW! and Bitter Melon Farm (both 1999 releases) collected many early tape tracks and singles. Sweden and The Coroner's Gambit appeared a year later.
Darnielle began the new millennium with records for Absolutely Kosher (The Coroner's Gambit) and Shrimper (Sweden) before signing to 4AD for the release of the surprisingly polished Tallahassee in 2002. We Shall All Be Healed followed in 2004, and one year later Darnielle was back with The Sunset Tree. Remaining prolific as ever, Darnielle turned away from the intensity of The Sunset Tree for a calmer, more reflective set of songs on 2006's Get Lonely. The accessible and assured Heretic Pride appeared in 2008. Next up was the Bible-verse inspired The Life of the World to Come, the group's sixth album for 4AD, in 2010. ~ Jason Nickey, Rovi