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The Mountain Goats: Tiny Desk Concert

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle keeps getting quieter, as his raw early bedroom recordings and bare-knuckle anthems continue to make way for polished ballads that whisper, seethe and mourn. The recent The Life of the World to Come at first feels strangely timid, but as its crushingly sad words sink in ("I am a flightless bird / There'll be no more after me," and so on), it hits slowly but deeply — less a punch than a gnawing ache.

In person, Darnielle's twitchy, nervous energy serves his fearless songwriting well: He exudes gentility and good humor in conversation, but his performances are utterly committed, with intensity that infuses his screams and whispers alike. In this solo Tiny Desk Concert, his four songs fit nearly into distinct categories: new and quiet ("Hebrews 11:40"), new and loud ("Psalms 40:2"), old and quiet ("Color in Your Cheeks," from All Hail West Texas), and old and loud ("Going to Georgia," from Zopilote Machine). It's no surprise that all four approaches serve him well.

Also, it should be noted that Darnielle drew a large and admiring crowd for this show, even though it appears in the video that it was attended exclusively by a photographer and the giant blond head of Lars Gotrich. Trust me: We wouldn't have missed this one for anything.

Set List

  • "Color in Your Cheeks"
  • "Hebrews 11:40"
  • "Psalms 40:2"
  • "Going to Georgia"
  • Credits

    Claire O'Neil and Heather Murphy (cameras); edited by Claire O'Neil

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)