hello folks! this week’s record was actually the most recent record the year i first hear the Mountain Goats, so mentally i’ve been dividing the discography into the early period (pre-All Hail West Texas), a middle period (AHWT to here ish), and a modern period (Transcendental Youth and forward). i know there’s a period before Zopilote Machine that i kinda skipped chunks of, and i wager there’s probably a better dividing line to end that “middle period” (the Annotated Mountain Goats site, for example, ends their coverage after Beat the Champ), but that’s mentally where i am going into this one. this is also the first record the Mountain Goats released with Merge Records, which is their current home.

the liner notes for this record remind me a lot of one of my favorite tabletop games, Illimat, in that All Eternals Deck references a “historical” tarot deck that only exists here, in the liner notes. it’s a fun conceit, and an interesting way to intro that these tracks are, in many ways, about the occult, about the darkly magical, and about folks working within an system that’s outside the conventional one.

Damn These Vampires is an excellent opener – the chords that build up through the verses are bright, optimistic, while the narrator describes a life that’s been ruined, the joy and metaphorical lifeblood sucked out of it. i think there’s a reading here that’s very literal but it’s definitely more evocative of like, being beat down, of trudging through the worst of it. i really like this song. Birth of Serpents has an interesting reference in its lyrics to very cinematic language, the camera pulling back, zooming out, and later to developing film. in both cases, it’s suggesting an image becoming clear, of slowly becoming aware of contextual information, but it’s not the only song on the record to reference being captured on film. this one’s also sweet in a melancholic way. John Darnielle has talked about this one being a lot about memory, which makes a lot of sense to me. Estate Sale Sign starts with a blast and keeps that energy going the whole time. this one’s about a relationship ending – i like the line “i remember when we shared a vision, you and i”, calling attention to the lack of shared vision now. this track was a late fave for me – i think the closing chorus and the ferocity of the drums really brought me around. speaking of melancholic memory, Age of Kings reminisces on days past. this one’s p solid. i like the bridge on the track a lot, with the swelling strings. The Autopsy Garland is a song that’s got a ton of specific details about the life of Judy Garland, which i wasn’t aware of much of before listening to the song. it’s dark, and it’s menacing, like an oncoming storm. i don’t know that i can tell you what i really like about Beautiful Gas Mask, all i can say is that the experience of listening is both pleasant and compelling. the bass on the track is great too. the studio bit leading into High Hawk Season is the kinda thing i really like, and love when they leave in. the chorus does a phenomenal job here, and lyrically i like the young version of a “secret society” vibes here, like a bunch of young folks committed to each other and what they want. very nice. Prowl Great Cain is a track about betrayal and escape – really like the chorus but feel kinda middling on the verses, honestly. Sourdoire Valley Song is about early proto-humans – it’s quiet, and soft in approach. Outer Scorpion Squadron has some beautiful piano work that absolutely fits a track about being haunted. they kept the lead in to For Charles Bronson too! i love it, especially since most Goats songs that have this kinda thing are rough around the edges and it shows most in these lead ins, but here it’s clean, it’s clear, it’s intentional. solid track for sure. i did not notice this, at all, until reading up about Never Quite Free on the Annotated Goats site, that all of the songs on this record have three word titles. huh. i don’t know how that plays into this song, but i do know i like the way there’s just a splash of twang in the mix for the guitar on this song. Liza Forever Minelli is a song about being stuck in Hollywood and making the best of it, from what i can see. neat closer.

faves – Damn These Vampires, Estate Sale Sign, Beautiful Gas Mask, High Hawk Season
dislikes –

i enjoyed this record quite a bit. i don’t think im super sold on the theming, but i don’t think it was trying to sell it extremely hard. from a sequencing perspective, opening with Damn These Vampires is interesting, since i found it the most interesting off the record, so the rest of the record felt a bit like a slow fade to me. neat to listen to for sure – if you’ve been on board with the Goats records around here, especially The Life of the World to Come and Heretic Pride, i think you’ll find plenty to dig into, but i expect i’ll be coming back for highlights more than full listens.

All Eternals Deck – 6/10

next up on the docket is Transcendental Youth!

once again, thanks the Annotated Mountain Goats site

support the band by checking this album out on Bandcamp!

the beginning: Zopilote Machine | previous: The Life of the World to Come | next: Transcendental Youth

all my reviews for The Mountain Goats