There are few bands who could state that they were writing a rock opera involving a mythic town and a wizard, and you’d think that it would turn out great. However, that was the initial intent behind the new album In League With Dragons by The Mountain Goats. While that theme isn’t the overall feel here, the music within is some of the most inspired sounds of their storied career.
John Darnielle is definitely going full in here, as the opener “Done Bleeding” is a piano driven track that is sweet and tender while still having the signature hooks you’d expect. Heading closest to eighties rock, the song sets the stage for what’s to come. The result is an album full of wonder and imaginative writing. The way that “Younger”opens with the drums in your head and gets met with acoustic and piano creates a sound that moves and sways. The singer songwriter gaze of “Passaic 1975” doesn’t walk you away, though it is a different approach. The guitar seems to dance alongside the vocals, giving itself more depth than the typical singer songwriter track.
With that said, the album opens more and more with each passing note. “Clemency For the Wizard King” has an almost free form shape with multiple vocals and keys that hone you towards Darnielle’s voice. This continues throughout the release, where the heavily instrumented album has vocals right in line with all that’s occurring here, yet it never feels cluttered. The subtle notes of “Waylon Jennings Live!” takes you to the south with funny lyricism while “An Antidote For Strychnine” showcases the darker side to the songs that Darnielle writes. The entire album is a ride through spaces you might not have expected the band to inhabit, yet it all falls in line with what you’d expect from The Mountain Goats.
There are upbeat songs as well, taking you close to some of what the band has become known for. “Doc Gooden” has plenty of upbeat acoustics and catchy tones to make you bop your head along. It’s the most snappy of the album, yet it’snot foreign in this collection of songs either. “Cadaver Sniffing Dog” is another upbeat number that has a mix of the band’s live set sound and plenty of ups to soothe any casual fan. The album has a lot of moving pieces, yet it all performs well together, like any other release from The Mountain Goats.
In League With Dragons is ready to stream on all streaming sites, it can be purchased digitally from all online music shops, and can be picked up physically in multiple formats from Merge Records. The Mountain Goats are on tour tonight at 9:30 Club until November 24 in Lisbon, Portugal at LAV. Their complete tour dates can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo by Jeremy Lange.