With the Prayers and Tears of Arthur
It's not often that a band's name actually describes its sound. Fortunately for Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle, his reverberating bleat of a singing voice actually complements the wonderfully literate indie folk he's been churning out since he first started recording on a boombox while working as a nurse in a California psychiatric hospital. Paired with his unpolished, cheese-grater-on-the-strings guitar playing and an unwavering fondness for lo-fi, the primary Goat is an underground god. On paper, his nasal vocals and schizophrenic guitar don't exactly sound appealing. But give the man an acoustic guitar, a dimly lighted club and an hour of your time, and you'll understand what all the fuss (or lack of fuss) is about. And after 16 albums, 15 years and some 400 songs -- during which the Mountain Goats apparently didn't stop to eat or sleep -- there is plenty of material to fuss over. The lyrics are the most essential component, alternately cynical and lovestruck, yet always intelligent and often hilarious: I hope I lie/And tell everyone you were a good wife/And I hope you die. May the man never sleep again.