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Never Quite Free

Date March 29, 2011

When recommending The Mountain Goats to friends, you face the dilemma of choosing an introduction into their massive discography, which includes 18 full-length albums, as well as dozens of EPs, singles, and compilation appearances. With All Eternal’s Deck, John Darnielle has made as outstanding of a starting point as any to dive into the artist’s luxuriously bountiful catalogue. The album may very well be his best since 2005’s The Sunset Tree, and thematically it actually feels like a continuation of that album. Darnielle has said “if The Sunset Tree was about living in the middle of abuse, [All Eternal’s Deck] is more of a surviving album.” There’s no track that encapsulates that theme better then it’s penultimate track, “Never Quite Free”.

For a guy who’s most famous line is “I hope you die! I hope we both die!“, this is an incredibly uplifting, even life-affirming song. The track combines poignant piano chords, dynamic percussion, and a slide-guitar solo that sounds like it could have been taken from an early Wilco song, with a moving vocal performance from Darnielle. The contemplative lyrics describe a newfound peace with his troubled abuse history. Whereas in The Sunset Tree‘s “Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod”, Darnielle sings about being “held under these smothering waves” and “one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land.”, now he sings “the waves that tossed the raft all night have set you on dry land” and later continues “It’s so good to learn that from right here the view goes on forever”. The Mountain Goats have played a multitude of styles in their 18-album career, but I don’t know if they’ve ever been as beautiful as on this song.

MP3 The Mountain Goats – Never Quite Free

Buy All Eternal’s Deck at Merge Records.


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