A Wrenching Voice That Leaves a 'Bruise'
The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle is best known for his searing songs about troubled souls: speed freaks, co-dependent couples, abusers and the abused. Propelled by barren acoustic instrumentation and sheer will, his work frequently revolves around twisted characters and gut-level emotion. The Mountain Goats' newest release, a stopgap Australian EP called Babylon Springs, contains a handful of originals and an intriguing departure: a cover of Trembling Blue Stars' "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise."
A persistent, sorrowful organ and twangy bass line lend a tinge of Americana to the mid-tempo song, supported by the bittersweet harmonies of Peter Hughes. The Mountain Goats' take on "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise" brings refreshing gravity to the six-year-old song, as Darnielle interprets it as a straightforward confession of unrequited love, much like many of the alt-country ballads it evokes.
But Darnielle doubles the effect -- as he so often does -- by unflinchingly singing phrases like "I'm under no illusion / as to what I meant to you." As always, his plain, nasal voice connects with almost physical force: It has a wrenching quality that's felt as much as it's heard. A consummate storyteller, Darnielle is no stranger to crafting stories of heartbreak and yearning. "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise" displays his considerable gifts as an interpreter, as well.
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