The Mountain Goats are a phenomenon, an institution, a singularly powerful entity hell-bent on producing at least one great indie rock record every couple of years (this is their eighth in the last decade, and 22nd in total). They’re like Guided by Voices for people who prefer tweed to denim, and you’ll find strands of their influence in acts as disparate as Sufjan Stevens and Arab Strap. Last year, John Darnielle and his co-conspirators released the rather superb Getting Into Knives, which was remarkable in that it featured a relatively stripped-down sonic palette, and a focus on making music that was destined to stay part of the live setup for years to come.
Near the end of his 2014 novel Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle wrote, "There are only two stories: either you go forward or you die." Three decades into his career, it's easy to see which one he prefers. Darnielle and the Mountain Goats, his one-time solo project which has now solidified into a quartet, have remained in constant motion. After a five-month tour at the end of 2019, the group settled at Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis to make 2020's Getting Into Knives, with a plan of heading south to Muscle Shoals, Alabama shortly afterwards to record the immediate follow-up.
Photo by Jade Wilson The Mountain Goats recorded Dark In Here during an extraordinary three week period, during which they also laid down Getting Into Knives and Songs for Pierre Chuvin. But while Getting Into Knives sported an exuberant, horn-blaring air and Pierre Chuvin flirted with the lowest of lo-fi aesthetics, Dark in Here is richly, soulfully apocalyptic, which makes sense. The world was sort of ending during those months, as COVID spread and music shut down.