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The Mountain Goats is a Durham, North Carolinamarker-based band, led by Americanmarker singer-songwriter John Darnielle. Darnielle began recording in 1991, and is known for his highly literate lyrics and (until 2002) his lo-fi recording style. The Mountain Goats' recent members have comprised the core trio of Darnielle, Peter Hughes on bass guitar, and Jon Wurster on drums.


In 1991, Darnielle began performing under the name The Mountain Goats in Claremont, Californiamarker, where he attended Pitzer Collegemarker and worked as a psychiatric nurse. The band's name is a reference to the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat". Darnielle released his first album, Taboo VI: The Homecoming, on Shrimper Records. Many of his first recordings and performances featured Darnielle accompanied by members of the all-girl reggae band The Casual Girls, who became known as The Bright Mountain Choir. One of this group's members, Rachel Ware, continued to accompany Darnielle on bass, both live and in studio, until 1995.

The first five years of the Mountain Goats' career saw a prolific output of songs on cassette, vinyl and CD. These releases spanned multiple labels and countries of origin; many were unavailable to the majority of fans until recent reissues.

The focus of the Mountain Goats project was the urgency of writing. Songs not recorded adequately to tape within days of being written were often forgotten.

College in 1995. Most of what could be considered classic Mountain Goats conventions (boom-box recording, song series, Latin quotes, and mythological themes) were abandoned in favor of a more thematically focused and experimental sound. This period was marked by Darnielle's collaborations with other artists including Alastair Galbraith and Simon Joyner.

2002 saw the release of two Mountain Goats albums: All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee. These albums mark a distinct change in focus for the Mountain Goats project, being the first in a series of concept albums that explore aspects of The Mountain Goats' canon in depth. All Hail West Texas featured the resurrection of Darnielle's early boom box recording for a complete album. Darnielle considers this album to be the culmination of his lo-fi recording style. Tallahassee, recorded with a band and in a studio, explores the relationship of a couple whose lives were the subject of the song cycle known as the Alpha Series (see Alpha Series below for a full list of songs in this cycle).

Martial Arts Weekend, also released in 2002 under the band name The Extra Glenns, is a collaboration with Franklin Bruno on several previously unreleased Mountain Goats songs. Since that recording, Bruno has joined Darnielle in the studio along with bassist Peter Hughes, who is the second official member of the band and accompanies Darnielle on tour. These three musicians form what may be considered the Mountain Goats studio band.

The Mountain Goats performing at the Northstar Bar on September 22nd, 2007

In 2004, the Mountain Goats released We Shall All Be Healed. The album marked a number of changes for the Mountain Goats. It was the first time Darnielle worked with producer John Vanderslice and the first album of directly autobiographical material. We Shall All Be Healed chronicles Darnielle's life with a group of friends and acquaintances addicted to methamphetamine in Portland, Oregonmarker, though the album is set in Pomona, Californiamarker.

In 2005, the Mountain Goats released their second Vanderslice-produced album, The Sunset Tree. Again autobiographical, Darnielle tackles the subject of his early childhood spent with an abusive stepfather. Darnielle had previously dealt with this subject in what he often refers to as the only autobiographical song he had written before 2004, the unreleased song "You're in Maya."

In 2006, the Mountain Goats relocated to Durham, North Carolinamarker and issued Get Lonely, which was produced by Scott Solter, a man perhaps best known for his engineering work with Vanderslice on various projects, including prior Mountain Goats records. In 2007, Jon Wurster played drums on the last leg of the Get Lonely tour.

In 2007, the band recorded tracks for its next album at Prairie Sun studios. Entitled Heretic Pride, the album was released on February 19, 2008. The Mountain Goats | News Archive | High Heresy It was produced by John Vanderslice and Scott Solter. Franklin Bruno and Erik Friedlander returned to the studio with Darnielle and Hughes, and they were also joined by Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster (who appeared during portions of the Get Lonely tour in 2007) and vocalist Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

On February 3, 2008, The Mountain Goats released a song called "Down to the Ark" that was commissioned by Weekend America.

On March 19, 2008, Darnielle posted on the band's website that their Australian tour would be canceled due to "personal health reasons".

Darnielle is featured on Aesop Rock's song "Coffee" from the 2007 album None Shall Pass. Aesop Rock also released a remix of the track "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" from the album Heretic Pride.

In 2009, Darnielle and Vanderslice released Moon Colony Bloodbath, a concept record about organ harvesting colonies on the moon. The EP was produced in a limited vinyl run of 1000 and sold during their "Gone Primitive" tour.

The Life of the World to Come, the 17th studio album by The Mountain Goats, was officially released on October 6, 2009. It was leaked on September 8, 2009. The third track, "Genesis 3:23", was released as a free download via the band's website on July 28.

On October 6, 2009, The Mountain Goats performed "Psalms 40:2" on The Colbert Report. It was their first television appearance. Darnielle also had a short interview with Colbert in which he professed himself a fan.


Former members and collaborators


Related bands

  • The Congress (John Darnielle with Mark Givens and others)
  • The Extra Glenns (John Darnielle with Franklin Bruno)
  • The Seneca Twins (John Darnielle with Lalitree Chavanothai and Chris Butler)
  • The Bloody Hawaiians (John Darnielle with Joel Huschle, Mark Givens and Caroline)
  • The Salvation Brothers (John Darnielle played drums for the band's live sets)
  • The Comedians (John Darnielle with John Vanderslice)

Song series

Scattered among the releases are song series: thematically interconnected ruminations on a single theme. Each EP and album is a project to be understood alone and as a part of an interrelated whole. Releases would often contain quotes, mostly in Latin, that gave hints to the theme of the piece.

Alpha series

Songs in this category concern the same fictional couple, described as a lower-middle-class man and woman who originally loved each other genuinely, and held generally ordinary concerns for one another's well-being, but whose relationship has degraded for a variety of reasons, most often a series of fights or drug and/or alcohol abuse, possibly both. Whatever the causes for their current situation, their love has not so much died as warped into the sincere, all-consuming desire of each of them to see the other drink themselves to death; thus, to facilitate this "walk down to the bottom", as described in the liner notes, the couple keep whatever liquor they can afford on hand for each other and stay together.

The album "Tallahassee", being entirely about the Alpha couple, begins with the pair buying a run-down house in the eponymous capital of Florida, and follows their descent into a spiral of mutual self-destruction. The album ends with a vision of the house burning and both of them being consumed in flames. Other songs not found on Tallahassee, usually including the word "Alpha" in their titles, deal with similar situations. Though there is no officially established order of the Alpha songs' complete continuity, John Darnielle has said that the last song in the set is "Alpha Omega", which depicts the end of the Alpha couple's relationship, with the narrator finding a note from their departed mate while eating boiled peanuts for breakfast.

The songs below are all part of the series:

  • Alpha Aquae
  • Alpha Compunction
  • Alpha Desperation March
  • Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina
  • Alpha Gelida
  • Alpha Incipiens
  • Alpha Negative
  • Alpha Omega
  • Alpha Rats Nest
  • Alpha Sun Hat
  • Alpha in Tauris
  • Alphabetizing
  • Design Your Own Container Garden
  • Ethiopians
  • First Few Desperate Hours
  • Game Shows Touch Our Lives
  • Going to Dade County
  • Have to Explode
  • The House that Dripped Blood
  • Idylls of the King
  • International Small Arms Traffic Blues
  • Letter From a Motel (or if you prefer: Letter from the Alpha Motel (or if you prefer: Letter from the Alpha Privative Motel))
  • New Chevrolet In Flames
  • No Children
  • Oceanographer's Choice
  • Old College Try
  • One Winter At Point Alpha Privative
  • Peacocks
  • See America Right
  • Southwood Plantation Road
  • Spilling Toward Alpha
  • Tallahassee
  • Twelve Hands High [was originally titled: Fit Alpha Vi]

Going to ... series

The 46 songs in this category are generally about needing to get out of a place and/or thinking life will magically improve by moving somewhere new. The characters are not always the same from song to song. Some of the songs, as pointed out by John Darnielle during live performances, are written from the perspective of a fictional stalker.

Although all the songs in the "Going To..." series were written by Darnielle, not all of them are credited to The Mountain Goats. For example, "Going to Marrakesh" and "Going to Lubbock" were performed by The Extra Glenns, Darnielle's side-project with Franklin Bruno, and released under that band's name.

The songs contained in the "Going To..." series are as follows:

  • Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina
  • Flight 717: Going to Denmark
  • Going to Alaska
  • Going to Bangor
  • Going to Bogota
  • Going to Bolivia
  • Going to Bridlington
  • Going to Bristol
  • Going to Buffalo
  • Going to Chino
  • Going to Cleveland
  • Going to Dade County
  • Going to Detroit
  • Going to East Rutherford
  • Going to France
  • Going to Georgia
  • Going to Hungary
  • Going to Jamaica
  • Going to Japan
  • Going to Kansas
  • Going to Kirby Sigston
  • Going to Lebanon
  • Going to Lubbock
  • Going to Maine
  • Going to Malibu
  • Going to Marrakesh
  • Going to Maryland
  • Going to Mexico
  • Going to Michigan
  • Going to Monaco
  • Going to Morocco
  • Going to Norwalk
  • Going to Palestine
  • Going to Pomona (Or: Going Through Pomona)
  • Going to Port Washington
  • Going to Queens
  • Going to Reykjavik
  • Going to San Diego
  • Going to Santiago
  • Going to Scotland
  • Going to Some Damned English City
  • Going to Spain
  • Going to Spirit Lake
  • Going to Tennessee
  • Going to Utrecht
  • Going to Wisconsin

Pure ... series

The songs in this series are as follows:
  • Pure Crystal
  • Pure Gold
  • Pure Heat
  • Pure Honey
  • Pure Intentions
  • Pure Love
  • Pure Milk
  • Pure Money
  • Pure Sound
  • Pure Sun

Orange Ball series

The title of this series comes from a book by Don DeLillo in which the sun is repeatedly described as an "orange ball". The songs contained in the "Orange Ball" series are as follows:

  • Orange Ball of Hate
  • Orange Ball of Love
  • Orange Ball of Pain
  • Orange Ball of Peace

Quetzalcoatl series

Quetzalcoatl ("feathered serpent" or "plumed serpent") is the Nahuatl name for the Feathered-Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerica, one of the main gods of many Mexican and northern Central American civilizations and also the name given to some Toltec rulers, the most famous being Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl. The songs included in the Quetzalcoatl series are as follows:

  • Quetzalcoatl Comes Through
  • Quetzalcoatl Eats Plums
  • Quetzalcoatl is Born

In other media

The band's music has been featured in the Showtime television series Weeds. "Cotton" was prominently featured in the season one episode "The Punishment Light", and "International Small Arms Traffic Blues" was featured in the season four episode "Yes I Can."

The songs "No Children", "Old College Try", and "Love Love Love" were each featured in separate episodes of the television series Moral Orel's third season, which has featured major running themes of alcoholism, regret, and domestic discontent.

Author John Green is an avid fan of The Mountain Goats. He mentions them briefly in the text of his 2008 book Paper Towns as well as quoting the song "Game Shows Touch Our Lives" in the novel's epigraph.

The band performed "Psalms 40:2" on the October 6, 2009 episode of The Colbert Report.


  1. Brown, "Sermon on the Mount", June 1999.
  2. Mountain Goats Hatch Studio Plans -
  3. Weekend America: The Mountain Goats do Super Tuesday
  4. Australian Tour Canceled

Further reading

External links

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