Music: The Mountain Goats

"The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway
is that it's you, and that you're standing in the doorway."
— "Going to Georgia", from Zopilote Machine

"Now let us play you another song about people who hate everybody! Thank you!"

An indie rock band based in Durham, North Carolina, and consisting in the main of John Darnielle and his guitar. From 1991 to 2002 the band was notable for its lo-fi recording style, many songs being recorded by Darnielle at home on a department-store boom box, although since Tallahassee he has made more use of proper studio equipment and a wider range of instruments, resulting in something of a Broken Base.

Mountain Goats songs are particularly remarkable for Darnielle's narrative, highly literary lyrical style. Many songs form part of a series, such as the "Songs for..." and "Going to..." series, or make up part of a broader narrative, such as the 'Alpha' cycle. Albums are often built around a single theme, such as The Life of the World to Come's obvious Biblical motif.

You can vote for the best songs here.

    Discography 
  • Albums
    • The Hound Chronicles (1992)
    • Hot Garden Stomp (1993)
    • Zopilote Machine (1994)
    • Sweden (1995)
    • Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg (1996)note 
    • Nothing for Juice (1996)
    • Full Force Galesburg (1997)
    • The Coroner's Gambit (2000)
    • All Hail West Texas (2002)
    • Tallahassee (2002)
    • We Shall All Be Healed (2004)
    • The Sunset Tree (2005)
    • Get Lonely (2006)
    • Heretic Pride (2008)
    • The Life of the World to Come (2009)
    • All Eternals Deck (2011)
    • Transcendental Youth (2012)
    • Beat The Champ (2015)
  • EPs
    • Taboo VI: The Homecoming (1991)
    • Songs for Petronius (1992)
    • Transmissions to Horace (1993)
    • Chile de Árbol (1993)
    • Taking the Dative (1994)
    • Yam, the King of Crops (1994)
    • Beautiful Rat Sunset (1994)
    • Philyra (1994)
    • Songs for Peter Hughes (1995)
    • Songs About Fire (1995)
    • Nine Black Poppies (1995)
    • New Asian Cinema (1998)
    • Isopanisad Radio Hour (1998)
    • On Juhu Beach (2001)
    • Devil in the Shortwave (2002)
    • Jam Eater Blues (2002)
    • See America Right (2002)
    • Dilaudid EP (2005)
    • Babylon Springs EP (2006)
    • Satanic Messiah (2008)
  • Demos
    • Come, Come to the Sunset Tree (2005)
    • Heretic Pride Demos (2008)
    • The Life of the World in Flux (2009)
    • All Survivors Pack (2011)
  • Compilations
    • Protein Source of the Future...Now! (1999) note 
    • Bitter Melon Farm (1999) note 
    • Ghana (1999) note 
    • The Hound Chronicles/Hot Garden Stomp (2012) note 
  • Collaborations
    • Why You All So Theif? - with Simon Joyner (1994)
    • Orange Raza, Blood Royal - with Alastair Galbraith (1995)
    • Tropical Depression EP - with Furniture Huschle (1997)
    • Bedside Recordings Vol. 1.2 - with John Vanderslice (2003)
    • Black Pair Tree EP - with Kaki King (2008)
    • Moon Colony Bloodbath - with John Vanderslice (2009)


They and Their Work Provide Examples of These Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: The (autobiographical) theme of The Sunset Tree.
    • Played at its most soul-shattering in the rarely performed "Song for my Stepfather".
    you can go ahead and hit him
    he feels no pain at all
    you erase me
    you erase me
  • The Alcoholic: Both of the Alpha Couple.
  • all lowercase letters: For a long time, "the Mountain Goats" was the only acceptable rendering.
  • Angry Mob Song: Inverted by "If You See Light," where the narrator is hiding from a mob, and in "Heretic Pride," in which the narrator is being killed by an angry mob.
  • Anti-Love Song: Any song concerning the Alpha Couple, and plenty of the rest too.
  • Ascended Fanboy: John Nall runs a fansite and near-obsessive collection of lyrics and tabs; it's now regarded as pretty much official.
  • As the Good Book Says: Even before 2009's Bible-based The Life of the World to Come, lyrics and song titles made frequent allusions and references to Scripture (along with holy texts and concepts of other religions).
  • The Atoner: Subverted in "Prowl Great Cain". The narrator feels all the guilt of his betrayals and sins but is not stopped by them in the least.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted in "Oceanographer's Choice". The Alpha Couple's reconciliation is an example of their dangerous codependency and is one of the most violent songs in the series. Played somewhat straight in "Old College Try".
  • Audience Participation: John frequently solicits requests from the audience.
  • Audience Participation Song: "No Children" ("I hope we ALL die!"), "Hand Ball," "Carmen Cicero," "Terror Song", "The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton".
  • Auto Erotica: "So Desperate"
  • Berserk Button: For pretty genial values of "berserk." Still, don't ask for "Golden Boy," and don't mention Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Sunset Tree closes with "Pale Green Things", which examines ambivalent memories of the album's antagonist.
    • We Shall All Be Healed ends with "Quito" and "The Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of". The former is about a speed freak planning out how everything's going to be better as soon as his luck changes while the latter is about victory over addiction, but both account for the many who were not as lucky.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done brutally at the end of "Seed Song":
    And I know you're waiting for the ironic ending
    And I know you're waiting for the punchline
    And I know you're waiting for the rain to come by
    So am I
  • Breakup Song: Some of the most cathartic ever written. Take "Baboon": "I'd be grateful my children aren't here to see this / Had you ever seen fit to give me children."
    • Woke Up New is a soft-voiced, intimate examination of the immediate aftermath.
    On the morning when I woke up without you for the first time
    I felt free and I felt lonely and I felt scared
    And I began to talk to myself almost immediately
    Not being used to being the only person there
  • Calling the Old Man Out: "Lion's Teeth."
  • Careful With That Axe: Peter Hughes's howl at the end of live performances of "See America Right."
  • Character Title
  • Concept Album: Sweden, All Hail West Texas, Tallahassee, We Shall All Be Healed, The Sunset Tree, The Life of the World to Come, Beat The Champ, and John Darnielle with John Vanderslice's "Moon Colony Bloodbath,"
    Moon Colony Bloodbath: Some of the songs have something to do with a loose rock opera/'concept album' idea about organ harvesting colonies on the moon and the employees thereof, who spent their off months living in secluded opulence in remote American locations. Concepts like this are actually more fun when you abandon them but leave their traces kicking around, so that’s what we did.
  • The Cover Changes The Gender: "One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl own!"
  • Cover Version: "The Sign" by Ace of Base. John legitimately loved the song, and loved to perform it, but stopped because he believed his audience thought he was covering it ironically.
    • Also "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, on the officially unreleased yet illegally leaked album Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg.
  • Destructo-Nookie: "Oceanographer's Choice." "And then we fell down / And we locked arms / We knocked the dresser over as we rolled across the floor..."
  • The Determinator : "Up the Wolves." "Alpha Desperation March." "Damn These Vampires." "Sax Rohmer #1." "This Year."
  • Did Not Get the Girl: "Alpha Omega" reveals that the Alpha Couple never work out their issues and separate.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Averted... kind of. John disapproves of early leaks on artistic grounds, but happily acknowledges that Napster et.al. brought the Mountain Goats to a much broader audience. He allows bootlegs to be posted on archive.org, but would personally prefer live shows to be kept between him and the audience.
  • Don't Come A-Knockin': The fogged windows in "So Desperate."
  • Downer Ending: It's heavily implied that at least one member of the Alpha couple eventually will eventually burn to death in a fire started by the other.
  • Driven to Suicide: At the end of Get Lonely, the narrator of "In Corolla" walks into the Atlantic Ocean.
    • "Going to Georgia" is about a man who was about to kill himself over unrequited love, only for the woman he was in love with to stop him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "You're in Maya." "Gameshows Touch Our Lives.'
  • Drugs Are Bad: We Shall All Be Healed doesn't make (meth)amphetamines sound very appealing.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: We Shall All Be Healed makes it clear that the protagonist's eventual triumph over addiction was a Pyrrhic victory.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Oceanographer's Choice" on Tallahassee, "Love, Love, Love" on The Sunset Tree, and "Going to Georgia" on Zopilote Machine.
  • Epic Rocking: "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton."
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: "The Monkey Song."
  • Evolving Music
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: In "Alpha Desperation March" and "Orange Ball of Peace" - after one member of the Alpha Couple leaves, the other tries to hurt the one that left and take eight thousand dollars from him/her in the former song, and sets his/her house on fire in the latter.
  • Face-Heel Turn: "Heel Turn 2"
  • Former Child Star: Seems to be a fascination of John Darnielle. "Song for Dana Plato", "The Autopsy Garland", "Tyler Lambert's Grave", "Harlem Roulette"...
  • Freudian Excuse: "Pseudothyrum Song"; I think someone was mean to you when you were little, that's what I think.
  • God Is Good: The chronically ill narrators of "Romans 10:9" and "Isaiah 45:23" maintain their faith in God and trust that they will be delivered from their suffering.
  • God Is Evil: In "Supergenesis" , the banished snake in the Garden of Eden is motivated by his perceived mistreatment at the hands of God
  • Grief Song: "Matthew 25:21," "Shadow Song," "Mole,' "Your Belgian Things." "Cobscook Bay," "Philippians 2:20-21,"
  • Happily Married: Don't let the endless list of angsty songs fool you.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Averted on The Life of the World to Come, where even the most depraved and dejected characters are seeking connection with (some idea of) God.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: "Insurance Fraud #2"
  • Hostage Situation: "Cut Off Their Thumbs #1"
  • Human Popsicle: Featured heavily on Moon Colony Bloodbath particularly "Emerging".
  • Human Resources: The plot of Moon Colony Bloodbath
  • "I Am" Song: "Hand Ball." "I am the dry meat that fills the mouth. I am the fire that burns without wood. I am Evil Forest. Kill a man on the day that his life seems sweetest to him."
  • I Am the Band: Though he's had the same bassist for a whopping eight years now, John Darnielle is the only constant in the lineup of "The Mountain Goats".
  • Iconic Song Request: "No Children!" "Going to Georgia!" "Best Ever Death Metal Band!" "GOLDEN BOY!!!!"
  • I Did What I Had to Do: "Against Pollution"
  • Intercourse with You: "I've Got the Sex"
  • Interrupted Suicide: "Going to Georgia"
    And you smiled as you eased the gun from my hand
    And I am frozen with joy right where I stand
  • It's Not You, It's Me: The protagonist of "Omega Blaster" seems remorseful and apologetic to the point of point of self-hatred as he leaves his significant other after an implied affair.
  • Kung-Shui: The Alpha couple in "Oceanographer's Choice" trashes a room fighting — and then destroys it when they start having sex.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The narrator of "Going to Dade County" is perfectly aware that you think he's making the story up.
  • Literary Allusion Title
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "1 John 4:16", "Deuteronomy 2:10", the piano version of "Steal Smoked Fish".
  • Lonely Together: "Dinu Lipatti's Bones" demonstrates how dark this trope can be.
  • Long Title: "If England Were What England Seems, Then We Would Only Have Our Dreams." "Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph of." "Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is in Another Castle." "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton."
  • Lost Episode: Dissatisfied with the way Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg turned out, John never released it — and was less than pleased when it turned up online a few years later. More recently, the West Texas Orphans EP was cancelled and the master tapes destroyed because of non-stop demands for pirated versions of Moon Colony Bloodbath on the band's own forum. This is why we can't have nice things.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "No Children" is a jaunty, upbeat song with the chorus line "I hope you die. I hope we both die." And the bouncy "Dance Music" starts with him running away from his stepfather, who's throwing a glass at his mother.
  • Lyrical Tic: "Yeah!"
  • The Masochism Tango: The Alpha Couple are the epitome of this trope.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Yeah, one of the nicest guys in the business wrote "No Children."
  • Messy Hair: The less said about his Get Lonely-era hair, the better.
  • Murder Ballad: "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace". "Against Pollution", though it's in self-defense.
  • Music for Courage: "Dance Music" and "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod" on The Sunset Tree:
    " Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick-veined hand"
    " But one of these days, I'm gonna wriggle up on dry land"
    • "Sax Rohmer Pt. 1" fits pretty well. "I am coming home to you/If it's the last thing that I do."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Neon Orange Glimmer Song"
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Subverted by The Sunset Tree, which chronicles in uncomfortable detail the abuse John suffered at the hands of his stepfather.
  • New Sound Album: Tallahassee.
  • No Accounting for Taste: The Alpha Couple shares a love of alcohol and self-hatred and that is about all that keeps them together.
  • Non-Appearing Title: More often than not, really.
  • Not Christian Rock: Most notably on The Life of the World to Come, on which every track is named after a Bible verse, but spiritual and religious themes are pretty common Mountain Goats fare.
  • Ode to Intoxication: Plenty on The Sunset Tree.
    • "You're in Maya" and much of Tallahassee as well.
  • The Oner: The video for "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace"
    • Also, the entirety of the film version of "The Life Of The World To Come", which features Darnielle playing songs from the album in an empty auditorium, directed by Rian Johnson.
  • The Perfect Crime: "Insurance Fraud #2." Or is it...
  • Perspective Flip: "Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is in Another Castle" is from the point of view of Toad, waiting to be rescued.
  • Power Fantasy: "Lion's Teeth," a revenge fantasy.
  • Precision F-Strike: The albums are pretty clean, but live versions have been known to get punched up from time to time.
  • Protest Song: "Down to the Ark" characterizes the primary voting process in the United States as a Satanic ritual. Yes, really.
    • "Fall of the Star High School Running Back" protests Texas's justice system for giving seventeen year-olds federal time.
  • Pyro Maniac: "Psalms 40:2" is about an arsonist realizing his actions are his only meaningful connection to God.
  • Raised Catholic: Though in practice he's a spiritual agnostic, Darnielle considers himself "culturally Catholic."
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • Now that John has a regular backing band, a lot of the earlier acoustic-and-voice stuff gets reinterpreted with a rhythm section.
    • The cello-only "Dilaudid" becomes a three-piece rocker live.
    • Despite the original frenetic recording, the slow version of "Alpha Omega" seems to be the canonical one.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Wild Sage" is a breakup song between a guy and his mind.
    • "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" and "In the Craters on the Moon", too.
  • Satan: The serpent in the Garden of Eden mourns his lot in "Supergenesis." While both "How To Embrace A Swamp Creature" and "Cobra Tattoo" relate the protagonists to the same serpent.
    • "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton"
    HAIL SATAN! HAIL SATAN, TONIGHT! HAIL SATAN! HAIL! HAIL! HAIL! HAIL!
  • Shout-Out: The chorus of "Enoch 18:14" is cutscene dialogue from Odin Sphere.
    • "The Fall of the Star High School Running Back" gives one to the Notorious B.I.G.
  • Shower of Angst: "Maybe Sprout Wings"
  • Shown Their Work: The Bible verses cited in the titles of the songs on The Life of the World to Come.
  • Silly Love Songs: Subverted rather amusingly in "Stars Fell on Alabama".
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Some songs involving the Alpha couple you can't quite tell whether the lyrics are describing them trying to kill eachother, or having a vicious love session, or both. Seen most notably in "Oceanographer's Choice".
  • Something Blues: "Dutch Orchestra Blues," "International Small Arms Traffic Blues," "Jam Eater Blues," "Jeff Davis County Blues," "New World Emerging Blues," "Transjordanian Blues."
  • Spoken Word in Music: Some of the older songs like Prana Ferox and Going to Bolivia include recordings at the beginning of people speaking.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Darnielle admits he leaned on this trope pretty heavily in his youth, but now actively avoids it.
    • Inverted with "Distant Stations" which John describes to be about a would-be stalker who never actually gets the nerve to venture very far.
    • Played straight with songs like "The Garden Song" and "Standard Bitter Love Song #8"
  • Stealth Pun: Possibly an unintentional example, but "Orange Ball of Peace" works equally well if you hear the chorus as, "I'm a fireman" or "I'm a fire, man".
  • Stop and Go: "See America Right."
  • Subdued Section: "In the Craters on the Moon."
  • Textless Album Cover: Averted a lot in the pre-4AD era.
  • The Power of Rock: "The best ever death metal band out of Denton will, in time, both outpace and outlive you. HAIL SATAN!"
  • Three Chords and the Truth
    • Lampshaped in "You Were Cool"
    These are the same four chords
    I use most of the time
    When I've got something on my mind
  • Title Track: "Tallahassee", "Transcendental Youth", "The Hot Garden Stomp", "The Coroner's Gambit", "Get Lonely", "Heretic Pride", "Nine Black Poppies", "Yam, the King of Crops", "Jam Eaters Blues".
  • Tranquil Fury: "Ox Baker Triumphant"
  • The Something Song: "Anti-Music Song." "The Black Ice Cream Song." "California Song." "Chinese Rifle Song." "Island Garden Song." "The Monkey Song." "Neon Orange Glimmer Song." "Pseudothyrum Song." "Shadow Song." "Song for an Old Friend." "Stable Boy Song." "Standard Bitter Love Song" #1-8. "Song for Cleomenes," "Song for Dana Plato," "Song for Dennis Brown," "Song for Lonely Giants," "Song for My Stepfather," "Song for the Julian Calendar," "Song for Tura Santana"...
  • With Friends Like These...: Refered to in "Game Shows Touch Our Lives." "They say that friends don't destroy one another. What do they know about friends?"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Averted.
  • Your Cheating Heart: "Alibi." "Houseguest." "Going To Maine." the Mountain Goats are a special case in that infidelity is rarely directly condoned or condemned.