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Bitter Melon Farm

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Album Review

The second in the compilation series of compilation, singles, and tape-only efforts by John Darnielle and associated others, Bitter Melon Farm is a dream of a release, like its predecessor, Protein Source of the Future, almost effortlessly showing Darnielle's talent and his songs' worth. As with the first, the liner notes are as entertaining and thoughtful as the tunes themselves (his Spandau Ballet fetish continues, said band being mentioned not once but twice, the second time being his thought that the Transmissions to Horace tape should have just been a dubbed copy of True). Darnielle and acoustic guitar once more dominate the proceedings, and his ear for finding many attractive variations on that approach remains clear; consider the near-whine over the brisk run of "Against Agamemnon" versus the reflective, soft melancholy and remembrance of "Snow Song" and the soaring chorus on "Pure Intentions." Transmissions to Horace itself takes up ten songs out of 27 on the collection, and while Darnielle is a bit embarrassed over the praise that tape has received, it is a fine listen, topped off with a warm, lovely cover of the Commodores' "Sail On." Another cover concludes Bitter Melon Farm, a revamp of Ace of Base's early-'90s confection "The Sign" that helps demonstrate once again that those who scoff at songs for succeeding commercially could easily miss out on some beautiful art. More winners from the liner notes: talking about his first single, "Songs for Petronius": "I am aware of a few people who think this is as close to perfection as I've come. These are the same people who think that Suede was possibly the greatest band in the world when they were just playing in small clubs around London but became the worst band in the world as soon as they released their first single."


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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