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The Sunset Tree

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iTunes Review

A captivating songwriter who has long used his imagination to shed light on the inner lives of misfits, from aging married folks to paranoid drug addicts, John Darnielle (the one constant member of this rotating ensemble) turns the microscope on himself for this unflinching look at his adolescence. Darnielle dedicates the album to his stepfather, an abusive drunk who made things difficult for his family. “Dance Music” spells out the angry tirades, glasses shattering, and a child hiding, with only music to block out the horror. “This Year” is Darnielle’s call to self-reliance (best line: “I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me”). Several other tunes replay difficult scenes, while others handle Darnielle’s other obsessions including reggae performer Dennis Brown’s weakness for cocaine. Many Mountain Goats albums were recorded under lo-fi conditions (basically, a Panasonic boombox). However, like many more recent MG collections, The Sunset Tree was recorded professionally and carefully uses the added fidelity to create a strong, never overpowering mood, with sawing strings accompanying Darnielle’s swiftly strummed acoustic guitar.

Customer Reviews

Simply Brilliant

The several music critics and fans are spot on. John Darnielle is a lyrical genius and awesome songwriter. 'The Sunset Tree' sees more instrumentation than previous Mountain Goats releases, with piano and 'cello, and it absolutely works to Darnielle's favour, fleshing out his soulful lyrics and taking the music to another level. Cellist Eric Friedlander is a particular joy to listen to. Cultural references are still an awesome mark of Darnielle's work, ranging on 'The Sunset Tree' from Dostoevsky to Kurt Cobain - and that's just in one track. Here's one goat you must take to the top of the hill and milk.


John Darnielle is a lyrical genius, perhaps the best of our time. The Mountain Goats are my favourite band at the moment, and I think they will be for some time to come. Quoting lyrics doesn't really do them any justice, as to take them out of the context of their song, as well as the music they are coupled with, combined with the way Darnielle delivers them, would be a crime. The album has plenty of heart wrenching songs about domestic violence, and some really uplifting boppy songs about uh...domestic violence, which makes them either very funny or even more heart wrenching. Not all the songs are about domestic violence though, there's stuff about prescription drug abuse, the death of a stepfather who abused you as a child and the mixed emotions that go with it, and other exciting family friendly topics. This is not a great review, I'm not making it sound good.....but it is a wonderful album, truly beautiful.


This album is one of those albums that you wonder how you ever lived without. A wonderfully heartfelt album probably relating the artist's life and youth. It takes an upbeat (for the most), and hopeful look at issues of abuse and drug use. Musically it is tight, catchy and also quite varied across the album. In my opinion, one of the best albums of our time.


Formed: 1991 in Claremont, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Mountain Goats are, for all practical purposes, the endlessly clever and prolific John Darnielle and whatever musicians he surrounds himself with, which means that while the soundscape may change from project to project, the overall tone and feel of Darnielle's work remains remarkably consistent. At his best, he writes finely observed, slightly surreal, impressionistic vignettes that manage to mix life as we live it with life as we wish we could live it, and as such he has more in common with...
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