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with Jesus

By David Werther.

The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come (4AD, 2009)

The Mountain Goats* ( take the title of their CD from the Nicene Creed, "I believe in the life of the world to come." In an interview with Pitchfork, singer-songwriter John Darnielle describes himself as a "Catholic by blood and tendency," as likely to pray Krishna mantras as the rosary. Even so, all of his song titles, save one, are explicit references to Bible verses. The exception,"Ezekiel and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace," underscores the CD's theme: grace and degradation. The protagonist in this song appears to be a kidnapper, driving with a captive bound in the backseat of his car. In "Philippians 3:20–21," the subject is suicide and salvation. Kenneth Partridge sees in "1 John 4:16" a "condemned Christian [who] awaits either the lion or an electric chair." In "Psalm 40:2," someone who has desecrated a chapel cries out "Lord send me a mechanic if I am not beyond repair." The New Yorker calls Danielle "America's best non-hip-hop lyricist," and Rolling Stone magazines regard him as one of the best contemporary songwriters. Listening to these tales of desperation, degradation, and grace, with echoes of Flannery O'Connor, one begins to see why.

*John Darnielle: acoustic guitars, vocals, piano, and keys; Peter Hughes: bass and electric guitars; John Wurster: drums and percussion, with string arrangements and performances by Owen Palett.

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