Mountain Goats ‘Getting into Knives’ Is Their Most Sharply Focused Effort Yet

The Mountain Goats | Getting Into Knives | (Merge)
4.5 out of Five Stars

Given the fact that The Mountain Goats are still a relatively obscure indie outfit as far as most folks are concerned, their new opus, Getting Into Knives, deserves to be the album that breaks them out big time. That’s a bold prediction of course, especially considering the fact that the band have never made an overt push for singular stardom. Indeed, the baker’s dozen selections that fill out the album aren’t overtly commercial in any usual sense, and yet they’re so damn addictive and engaging that wider recognition would seem a natural consequence. And yet, as they declare on one of many standout tracks, “Get Famous,” stardom seems secondary to simply making music that resonates with obvious enthusiasm. 

“You were born for these flashing lights
You were born for these endless nights
You always knew sooner or later
You were destined for something greater”

Indeed, that mantra might very well reflect what the band’s fans feel after hearing what can only be described as a most memorable masterpiece. The fact that it follows so closely on the heels of two very recent outings — Songs for Pierre Chuvin, released this past April, and last year’s In League with Dragons — makes this new collection all the more impressive still. The core combo — John Darnielle (vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Douglas (keys, guitar, accordion, backing vocals), Peter Hughes (bass), and Jon Wurster (drums) — chose an auspicious locale for this production, that being Sam Phillips’ iconic recording studio in Memphis, and yet clearly they had the goods even before embarking upon these sessions. Practically every song is a stand-out, whether it’s the modest Stax- sounding repast of “Harbor Me,” the easy sway of the title track, “Tidal Wave” and “Picture of My Dress,” the snappy send-up conveyed through “Corsican Stride,” or the light and lilting caress that flows through “Pez Dorado.” It’s evident that this group seems has an easy affinity for melodies that charm rather than challenge. The once true exception is found within the dramatic delivery and upward gaze of “The Last Place I Saw You Alive” and “Wolf Count,” songs that clearly aim to convey a higher purpose and ultimately achieve the full fruition.

Ultimately, the best complement one can pay the band at this point is simply to say that the new album is in fact the perfect primer for newcomers as well as further affirmation for those that have followed them all along. Getting Into Knives makes the point that The Mountain Goats are successfully finding their way to higher heights.

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