The first indie record store I ever went to was Go! Compact Discs in Arlington, Virginia. It was in a residential apartment building. Some of my first loves were found in that little store. We’d go and spend hours just looking at records, picking out what we wanted to take home. After we’d collected all the records by local bands like Jawbox, Fugazi, Tsunami and Unrest, we started experimenting. We’d peruse the 7-inch records and buy stuff because of the packaging. This is how we found The Mountain Goats.

It is maybe 8 years and hundreds of records later and I still remember buying this one. It caught my eye because it was one of the first hand-packaged records I'd ever seen. It was a compilation 7-inch from a tiny label called Pottery Records out of Pennsylvania. The record sleeve was made out of a blue-green file folder with a picture taken out of National Geographic glued to the cover. The picture was some sort of Jacques Cousteau underwater vista with a diver and a school of fish and the clear blue water surrounding them. I don’t remember any of the other bands on that 7 inch, but I do remember The Mountain Goats.

And such began my love affair with lo-fi, my passion for home recordings. The Mountain Goats is mostly John Darnielle, even though there have been other members in the past. But John and his guitar and his snappy words are enough. He once said in an interview that he sees his music as a way to slip the words to us under the door. This makes sense, because he is first and foremost a storyteller. His songs are of people, real people. People in love and past love and on the way to love. People who comment on the merits of "the most beautiful cow I’ve ever seen." He is James Taylor, but smarter and quirky. He is the punk Bob Dylan. His voice sounds like how New England might taste on an autumn day.

While the first Mountain Goats recordings were made on John’s boom box and put out on cassette by Shrimper, he has put out many fuller studio records on labels like Emperor Jones, Subpop and 4AD. His most recent release, Tallahassee (4AD, 2002), is the most lush to date having been recorded by Tony Doogan who has also recorded records for Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian. And it sure does show. Below is a discography separated by compilation appearances and regular releases. His biggest hit to date is most likely Cubs in Five (read the lyrics, they are funny).

Recommendations on best places to listen to the Mountain Goats (on headphones, of course): grandmother’s funeral, hay ride, cornfield maze, high school graduation (yours or someone else’s), cross country drive from New England to California, in bed under the covers wearing your Holly Hobbie pajamas.


"Wild Palm City" (aka "Within You, Without You") on Back to the Egg, Asshole cassette (Shrimper, 1991)
"The Pieman" (live) on A Munchies Kinda Christmas cassette (Sonic Enemy, 1992)
"The Window Song" on Pawnshop Reverb cassette (Shrimper, 1992)
"Going to Maine" on Hard Core Acoustic cassette (Shrimper, 1993)
"Noche del Guajolote" on I Like Walt 7" EP (Walt, 1994)
"Going to Bangor" on You and What Army? cassette (Sing Eunuchs, 1994)
"The Window Song" on Abridged Perversion CD (Shrimper, 1994)
"Against Agamemnon" on Howl...A Farewell Compilation of Unreleased Songs CD (Glitterhouse / Zuma, 1994)
"Rain Song" on I Present This 7" EP (Union Pole, 1994)
"Faithless Bacchant Song" on Those Pre-Phylloxera Years 7" EP (Box Dog Sound, 1994)
"The Anglo-Saxons" on The Basement Tapes: Life Recordings at KSPC 1989-1995 LP (KSPC, 1995)
"Duke Ellington" on The Long Secret CD (Harriet, 1995)
"Flight 717: Going to Denmark" and "The Admonishing Song" on Corkscrewed cassette (Theme Park, 1995)
"The Last Day of Jimi Hendrix's Life" on Cool Beans #4 7" EP (Cool Beans, 1995)
"Noctifer Birmingham" on Fast Forward 2 2xCD (Brinkman, 1995)
"Song for an Old Friend" on The Wheel Method 7" EP (Pottery, 1995)
"Going to Port Washington" on The Wedding Record 7" EP (Walt, 1995)
"Hand Ball" and "Alpha Omega" on Our Salvation Is In Hand CD (Theme Park, 1995)
"Creature Song" and "Pure Sound" on Goar #11 7" EP (Goar, 1995)
"Leaving Home" on Cyanide Guilt Trip 7" EP (Cactus Gum, 1996)
"Snow Song" Dog So Large I Cannot See Past It CD (WPRB, 1996)
"Black Molly" on In Release City cassette (Slowball, 1996)
"Going to Kirby Sigston" on Hey Dan K. (Ajax, unreleased)
"Please Come Home to Hamngatan" on We'll Sail Out Far ... Maybe a Little Too Far ... 2xLP+7" (Apartment, 1997), reissued as 2xCD (Wabana, 1999)
"Golden Boy" on Object Lessons: Songs About Products CD EP (Inconspicuous, 1998)
"Saigon Shrunken Panorama" on Acuarela Songs 2xCD (Acuarela, 2001)
"Un Reve Plus Long Que La Nuit" on Gold Kiss Gala: I'll Wed You CD (Dark Beloved Cloud, 2001)


Taboo VI: The Homecoming cassette (Shrimper, 1991)
The Hound Chronicles cassette (Shrimper, 1992)
Songs for Petronius 7" EP (Shrimper, 1992)
Chile de Arbol 7" EP (Ajax, 1993)
Transmissions to Horace cassette (Sonic Enemy, 1993)
Hot Garden Stomp cassette (Shrimper, 1993)
Beautiful Rat Sunset 10"/CD EP (Shrimper, 1994)
Zopilote Machine CD (Ajax, 1994)
Philyra 7" EP (Theme Park, 1994)
Taking the Dative cassette (Car in Car, 1994)
Why You All So Thief 7" EP (split with Simon Joyner) (Sing Eunuchs, 1994)
Yam, the King of Crops cassette (Oska, 1994)
Orange Raja, Blood Royal 7" EP (with Alastair Galbraith) (Walt, 1995)
Songs for Peter Hughes 7" EP (Sonic Squid, 1995)
Nine Black Poppies CD EP (Emperor Jones, 1995)
Songs About Fire 7" EP (Cassiel, 1995)
Sweden LP/CD (Shrimper, 1995)
Nothing for Juice LP/CD (Ajax, 1996)
Full Force Galesburg LP/CD (Emperor Jones, 1997)
Tropical Depression EP 7" EP (split with Furniture Huschle) (Little Mafia, 1997)
New Asian Cinema 1-sided 12" EP (Yoyo, 1998)
Protein Source of the Future...Now! CD (Ajax, 1999; 3 Beads of Sweat, 2002)
Bitter Melon Farm CD (Ajax, 1999; 3 Beads of Sweat, 2002)
Isopanisad Radio Hour 1-sided 12" EP (Yoyo, 2000)
The Coroner's Gambit LP/CD (Absolutely Kosher, 2000)
On Juhu Beach 3" CD (Nursecall, 2001)
All Hail West Texas CD (Emperor Jones, 2002)
Ghana CD (3 Beads of Sweat, 2002)
"Jam Eater Blues" + 2 7" EP (Sub Pop, 2002)
Devil in the Shortwave 1-sided 12" EP (Yoyo, 2002)
Tallahassee CD (4AD, 2002)
"See America Right" 7"/CD EP (4AD, 2002)

In 2005, John Darnielle released The Sunset Tree. The Mountain Goats made their first big break this year, with their single This Year. They began to have some minor airplay on some folk-rock radio stations. The Sunset Tree was a concept album - a story about Darnielle's abusive stepfather. It is considered on of the most melancholy Mountain Goats albums: particuarly the song Song For Dennis Brown.

The Mountain Goats also have the tradition of continuity in their music, even throught albums. They have a series af songs that begin with alpha, which is a continuing story of a couple. They also have songs that start with Going to..., which describe the moods of certain places.

"Today I learned that mountain goats aren't actually goats."

"Uh, yeah? They're people."

"I'm pretty sure goats aren't people."

"Not those mountain goats! The other ones!"

"I'm pretty sure there's only one species of mountain goats."

"I'm talking about the band."

"There's a band made of goats?"

"They're not goats!"

"Exactly! They're a type of antelope."

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