The Best Album of the Decade Defense: “The Life of the World To Come” by The Mountain Goats (and no I am not crazy)

24 Dec

It is going to be tough defending “The Life of the World to Come” by The Mountain Goats as the best album of the decade. Most readers are probably asking themselves who would name their band after a goat and that is exactly why it is going to be a tough defence. When names like Radiohead, Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, etc. grace the list of albums and tremendous musical efforts are at a plenty, how can I possibly have the audacity to say a band with only a minimal cult following created the greatest combination of music in this past decade. Well, I do. “The Life of the World To Come,” the most recent release from the Dunham, North Carolina band led by singer-songwriter John Darnielle is the best combination of music released in the past 10 years.

Over the past 10 years, Darnielle and his Mountain Goats have released 9 albums. Wait!?! 9 albums in 10 years. No big deal or anything. The man and his band are music machines. They crank out quality music like an assembly line that has the ability to change their output (so nothing gets repetitive). Darnielle’s lyric is also one-of-a-kind and on “The Life of the World to Come” it shines brighter than any of his other releases in 10 years. Yet, I understand, many bands have released a lot of albums over the past decade. What makes this specific album by this specific unknown band better than consensus #1 picks by magazines like Rolling Stone?

While “The Life of the World to Come” only reached #110 on the Billboard list of top 200 albums and has most likely not even been a thought for best album of a decade, I genuinely believe that most of Darnielle’s music is completely underrated and this specific album is probably the most underrated album of the decade. The unusual album that features 12 songs with bible verse titles (but do not take them literally) is Darnielle’s masterpiece of, in his own words, “12 hard lessons the bible taught me.” What remains so fantastic about Darnielle’s music and especially this album, is that he refuses to settle for a conventional lyric over known beats.

The music on this album is certainly at the top of its game. It is not only Darnielle’s acoustic guitar riffs, but, original piano, bass, drum compositions that make each song catchy and authentic. Yet, the album is brought together in Darnielle’s incredibly real lyric, which, in my opinion, is one of the best lyrical efforts in numerous decades. Before we look at his lyric, let us look at what a lyric is supposed to encompass. Lyric poetry is, in theory, a form of expression that focuses on personal feeling. Darnielle puts astronomical feeling in his music and that is a lot of feeling.

I believe that the closing note of my argument is profiling one particular song and I believe I did this before. So, let me quote an earlier review I did of this album.

“There is something rather shocking about Darnielle’s lyric. He seemingly can take any topic and slow it down for a brief look into human emotion. In “Matthews 25:21,” Darnielle begins the song by singing:

“They hook you up
To a fentanyl drip
To mitigate the pain a little bit
I flew in
From Pennsylvania
When I heard the hour was coming fast
And I docked in San Barbara
Tried to brace myself
You can’t brace yourself”

The story is set. A fentanyl drip is the commonly used opiate for cancer patients or the terminally ill. We can clearly see that the song is about a character finding out that someone near to them is in their last stages of dying of cancer. Darnielle continues the song by saying:

“And I’m an eighteen-wheeler headed down the interstate
And my breaks are going to give
And I won’t know till it’s too late
Tires screaming when I lose control
Try not to hurt too many people when I roll”

This metaphor is suggesting that the character understands that the person will die; yet, he cannot bring himself to cry. He knows it will happen and he attempts to brace himself. And, when the song ends Darnielle writes:

“And you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to it’s worth
It’s three days later when I get the call
And there’s nobody around to break my fall.”

It is three days later when he learns of the person’s death and no one is there to catch him as he breaks down like the eighteen wheeler without breaks flying off into a visible night. Darnielle is a master craftsman and, once again, he has taken the untouchable topics of life and has molded them into beautiful and emotional music.”

Darnielle performing “Ezekiel 7 and The Permanent Efficacy of Grace”

Be sure to check out the blog later for the summation of our “Best of” decade polls

One Response to “The Best Album of the Decade Defense: “The Life of the World To Come” by The Mountain Goats (and no I am not crazy)”


  1. Tweets that mention The Best Album of the Decade Defense: “The Life of the World To Come” « The Music Court -- - December 24, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DAVID, Matt Coleman. Matt Coleman said: The Best Album of the Decade Defense: "The Life of the World To Come": […]

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