John Darnielle has recorded under the name "The Mountain Goats" since the early '90s, and in that time his records have gone from crude boombox recordings to polished, sprawling efforts. The fidelity has cleared up, but Darnielle's way with words and flawed-but-noble characters has always been central to the proceedings.
His latest, Transcendental Youth is devoted to spending time in the heads of people in dark places. Amy Winehouse, Judas, Satan, the jonesing junkies of "Lakeside View Apartment Suite" -- Darnielle speaks for these people in uncannily empathic ways.
But the record has an undaunted sense of optimism too, a joyful glee spurred on by the celebratory horn arrangements of Matthew E. White (whose own 2012 release, Big Inner, works as a sort of spiritual counterpoint to Transcendental Youth) and the loping rhythm section of Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster.
We spoke with Darnielle about the album, where he catalogs these disparate characters in his head, and becoming a father.