Have you seen Minding The Gap yet? You should. The documentary feature, now streaming on Hulu, follows a few young skateboarders in a small and economically depressed Illinois city, but it gets into heavier subjects — generational abuse cycles, unspoken racial politics within circles of friends, entire generations growing up without any economic opportunity, the feeling that you get when you finally figure out how to escape your bullshit circumstances. And there’s a moment in the movie where a Mountain Goats song comes on, and it just destroys you. That’s what Mountain Goats songs can do. We’re about to get some more of them.
There is a new Mountain Goats album called In League With Dragons coming out this spring. John Darnielle and his band recorded the follow-up to 2017’s Goths, in Nashville. Darnielle will have more to say about the album at 4PM today, when he does a Facebook Live session with Wizards Of The Coast, the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. But here’s what Darnielle says about the new album in a press release:
This album began life as a rock opera about a besieged seaside community called Riversend ruled by a benevolent wizard, for which some five to seven songs were written. When I’m focusing on a project, I always distract myself from the through-line with multiple byways, which are kind of like mini-games within the broader architecture of a long video game. As I worked on the Riversend stuff, weird noir visions started creeping in, probably under the influence of Leonardo Sciascia (a Sicilian author, he wrote mysteries) and Ross MacDonald’s The Zebra-Striped Hearse, which a friend from Port Washington gave me while I was in the thick of the writing. I thought these moods helped complicate the wizards and dragons a little, and, as I thought about my wizard, his health failing, the invasion by sea almost certain to wipe out half his people, I thought about what such a person might look like in the real world: watching a country show at a midwestern casino, or tryout pitching for an American League team years after having lit up the marquees. Finally, I wrote the title track, which felt like a drawing-together of the themes in play: rebellion against irresistible tides, the lush vistas of decay, necessary alliances. I am earnestly hoping that a new genre called “dragon noir” will spring from the forehead of nearly two years’ work on these songs, but, if not, I am content for this to be the sole example of the style.
Lead single “Younger” is lush and expansive and six minutes long. It’s got a fuller sound that we’re used to hearing even from latter-day Mountain Goats records. It sounds like John Darnielle is back to playing guitar rather than piano. And while the lyrics will take some parsing, it’s a story of battle, possibly the sacking of Troy from The Iliad: “This whole house is doomed / Even the big parts get consumed / Prepare a grave for Menelaus.” Listen below.
The Mountain Goats are streaming a concert and interview from the Wizards Of The Coast corporate headquarters. Watch it below:
01 “Done Bleeding”
03 “Passaic 1975″
04 “Clemency For The Wizard King”
05 “Possum By Night”
06 “In League With Dragons”
07 “Doc Gooden”
08 “Going Invisible 2″
09 “Waylon Jennings Live!”
10 “Cadaver Sniffing Dog”
11 “An Antidote For Strychnine”
12 “Sicilian Crest”
In League With Dragons is out 4/26 on Merge. The prospect of Mountain Goats songs called “Doc Gooden” and “Waylon Jennings Live!” and “Sicilian Crust” might be enough to keep some of us going for a few more days.