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The Sunset Tree

The Mountain Goats

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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

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Do you remember in middle school, when you had to wear a neck brace for several months, and kids would come up to you in the hallway from behind and yank the velcro strap on the back side that held the device together, and then you'd whip around, all stiff and angry, and because you couldn't turn your head the perp would have already dodged back into the crowd, and there would just be several kids standing behind you, laughing, pointing, and then you went around to the back of the school all by yourself, or maybe with your too-tall friend Mike, and smoked cigarettes and listened to "Ride the Lightning" on your Walkman? This album sounds exactly like that. But very different. And with sick Vanderslice production.

One of the most honest albums I've heard

The Sunset Tree is a concept album about singer/songwriter John Darnell's childhood. Particularly poingant are "Dance Music" and "This Year." In the former Darnell mixes an upbeat, pop beat with a disturbing song about his father beating his mother. The juxtaposition works elegantly. This is an album that feels honest to the point of being uncomfortable that he's sharing so much. That the album is recorded in a professional studio is a great benefit in comparison to the solo acoustic tapes that were recorded in his home. The quality is greatly enhanced and the keyboard adds ot a number of songs. This album comes highly recommended.

A Masterful Example of Storytelling Through Song

I had always heard of The Mountain Goats, but had usually just glossed them over when checking out new bands. I guess the short samples on iTunes don't really do the songs justice, so i never really saw anything worth buying from the samples alone. However, upon reading glowing reviews of the album and enjoying the iTunes samples somewhat, i decided to purchase The Sunset Tree. Man, am i glad that i did. While the music itself is wonderful and beautifully composed, it only scratches the surface of this albums depth. The story of childhood and the pain and struggle associated with it is told through simple, yet eloquent lyrics. If you are considering buying this, i have to say just go for it, because until you have listened to the album as a whole it is difficult to understand the effect it will have on you. One of the top 10 of 2005, easily.

Biography

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...
Full Bio

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