After releasing two albums in 2020, prolific folk outfit The Mountain Goats has announced a new album called Dark In Here for June 25 release via Merge Records. They recorded the album between Songs for Pierre Chuvin and Getting Into Knives while at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
FAME Studios lives up to its name, since the Muscle Shoals institution has recorded the music of artists such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Gregg Allman, Bobby “Blue” Bland and many others. Getting Into Knives was similarly recorded at a famous studio, Memphis’ Sam Phillips Recording, so it fits that frontman John Darnielle described Dark In Here as the “weathered, gnarlier cousin to Getting Into Knives.”
The Mountain Goats also released a new single called “Mobile,” named after the city. Darnielle sings the refrain, “I’m on a balcony in Mobile, Alabama, waiting for the wind to throw me down.” The verses refer to the biblical Book of Jonah, in which Jonah refuses to prophesize the destruction of a town that has incurred the wrath of God. Jonah is punished for this and caves in, which Darnielle retells with the phrasing, “Lord, if you won’t keep me safe and warm/Then send down the storm/Send down the storm.”
Bassist Peter Hughes interpreted Darnielle’s lyrics by comparing “Mobile” to Moby Dick, “One of my quarantine projects after getting home was going back to Moby Dick and actually finishing it for once, and I was amused to encounter early on the retelling of the story of Jonah. If Melville gives it to us as a fiery 19th century New Bedford sermon, what ‘Mobile’ offers might be understood as Father Mapple’s modern-day Gulf Coast flip side, the breeziness of [Will] McFarlane’s electric guitar and Matt Douglas’ accordion belying its protagonist’s guilty conscience.”
Like Hughes says, the song doesn’t sound as stormy as the lyrics would lead one to imagine. “Breeziness” is the best way to describe McFarlane’s guitar and Spooner Oldham’s piano playing, floating around inside the key of the song. Those two musicians are Muscle Shoals veterans who have recorded with artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. They came up with their parts in real-time alongside The Mountain Goats’ members, who have played together long enough to reach “another level of connectedness altogether, one bordering on the supernatural,” according to Hughes. Hughes’ bass and Jon Wursters’ drums give the song a solid backbone and similarly keep the song light.
Dark in Here is available for pre-order today on CD and 2-LP vinyl, with colors differing between the band’s site and Merge’s site. Merge’s merch store also offers The Mountain Goats vinyl packages and some other unique bundles, including a ‘pogs pack’ and a jigsaw puzzle.
The Mountain Goats has also been releasing a series of concert recordings called The Jordan Lake Sessions, and announced that the Volume 4 live performance will debut tonight, April 19 at 8:00 p.m. EDT via Noon Chorus. The group already recorded Volume 3 last night, but both shows will be available for rebroadcast through April 23.