It was raining the day we met up with John Darnielle and The Mountain Goats at the Aladdin Theater. It was the kind of soaked, gray day typical of December in the Pacific Northwest, but for Darnielle it was also a reminder of the dark time he spent living here years ago— “By noon I was 18 years old again and mad as hell,” he said.
No stranger to making records made up of songs with a common thread, Darnielle once again turned to a theme late last year for his 14th Mountain Goats record. Transcendental Youth finds him visiting that kind of darkness and a cast of characters often in some way on society’s fringes—addicts, criminals, and the mentally unstable all figure in songs unique in their compassion. Sonically, a handful of songs are buoyed by the presence of horn arrangements courtesy of Matthew E. White— the chorus of “Cry for Judas” is hardly celebratory (“Long black night/ Morning frost/ I am still here/ But all is lost”), but it feels like a sing along backed by a flourish of brass. That element crossed over into our session including two new songs and back catalog favorite “This Year.”
Audio recording: Steven Kray
Video production: Nate Sjol, Jarratt Taylor
Interview: Jeremy Petersen
Photos: Inger Klekacz
Executive Producer: David Christensen