I have heard none of the music, but Transcendental Youth strikes me as a perfect Mountain Goats title. Indeed, there's a kind of transcendental youth at the core of every record that leader and songwriter John Darnielle creates. From the hissing cassette recordings of his early days to his current hi-fi compositions, Darnielle's meticulous narratives mine through the strife that ages us, rescuing the defiantly screaming kid trapped amid the frustration. His nasal bark has grown into an unlikely croon, and he regularly works with vocal choirs and string parts. But all of that has only sharpened his focus when it comes to distilling the youthful madness hidden within every seemingly mature adult.
"I had an idea for a song so I started working on it," Darnielle writes of Transcendental Youth's genesis in an essay posted to the Goats' website. "The narrator turned out to be a person who felt lost and alone and only partially able to keep it together. He was living alone in the Pacific Northwest, and he was fighting the urge to just stop fighting at all, and I recognized his voice because, one, I used to work with a lot of people who spent long seasons in that guy's shoes, and two, I have also been that guy. Who hasn't, if not north of Portland during the rainy season then elsewhere, lost and desperate and trying to swim to the surface?"
Darnielle received some some help with arrangements from Owen Pallett, who shaped the vocal parts for the Goats' "Transcendental Youth" shows with Anonymous 4 this spring, a collaboration that will be repeated as part of this fall's Duke Performances series. The renditions that appear on the record were forged through live performances, a practice that Darnielle has only infrequently used in the past, typically keeping songs to himself until they are released.
Darnielle will also play two special sets at the Independent's Hopscotch Music Festival — one an acoustic set of rarities and fan favorites, the other a set of heavy metal covers played on the piano. For a more entertaining take on today's Mountain Goats news, be sure to check out the band's new bio, written by Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman.