A week and a half ago, when the whole unofficial national quarantine first started, the Mountain Goats leader John Darnielle tweeted an image of an acoustic guitar and a dusty, beat-up old Panasonic tape-deck boombox, along with the phrase “housebound, deeply miscreant & up to absolutely no good.” If you know what that means, then you fucking know. Back in the ’90s, years before the Mountain Goats became a proper name, Darnielle built its name with a series of cult-beloved recordings — savage, beautifully-written acoustic-guitar attacks that he recorded on that very same boombox. The Mountain Goats have made absolutely dazzling records since that era, but plenty of devotees still miss that old tape-deck sound. Now that Darnielle is sequestering himself, it seems to be coming back.
Last week, along with the phrase “working on a thing,” Darnielle posted video of himself playing a new song called “For The Snakes.” Yesterday, he did it again, dropping a video of himself playing the new song “Exegetic Chains” while recording it on that boombox. Before playing the song, Darnielle explains his habit of using his titles as the missing clue to the song’s lyrics, and he also calls it “the last song on the tape.” (In the YouTube description, he writes, “And then there were ten. Didn’t want to wait to share this one.” So: New tape? Soon maybe?
The song itself is a lovely, ruminative piece of work that’s musically closer to the more expansive music that Darnielle has made in recent years than to his old acoustic attacks. Darnielle puts a lot of bucolic imagery into his lyrics, and he also makes reference to the eternal 2005 banger “This Year.” “Exegetic Years” feels like a song about our current shared situation, but Darnielle’s writing is rarely that simple, and I don’t want to misrepresent it. Check out the video below.
We don’t know when or even really if that new Mountain Goats tape is really coming, but I’m ready for it.