The Mountain Goats’ Latest Pandemic Release Looks into the Darkness
In “Dark in Here,” singer John Darnielle explores a bleak but enchanted world—all the way back to the biblical story of Jonah.
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” – Psalm 139:12
In 2016, John Darnielle told Christianity Today his favorite book of the Bible was Jonah. Five years later, “Mobile,” the first single from the Mountain Goats’ latest album, Dark in Here, retells it.
The Jonah story is one that seems to recur culturally—the metaphor of being engulfed by something unfathomably bigger than oneself is always relatable, somehow. Even last month, the world was briefly captivated by the lobster diver who found himself briefly swallowed by a whale, telling the Associated Press that “everything went dark” and he thought “OK, this is it … I’m gonna die.”
So it’s not a stretch to read a morbid belly-of-the-whale joke in the title of the album, Dark in Here—one of an astounding four albums the Mountain Goats recorded last year, and in fact one of three recorded solely in the cursed time-vortex month of March 2020. The other two are this album’s spiritual studio prequel, Getting into Knives, and a solo effort recalling Darnielle’s earlier home recordings, Songs for Pierre Chuvin; a live-in-studio set, the Jordan Lake Sessions, was made later in the year. None of these are really “pandemic albums,” but the Jordan Lake Sessions opens with “The Plague,” a song written decades before COVID. “This is not the first plague!” Darnielle ad-libs after the song. “No! People like me have been singing about plagues for a long time!”
Dark in Here is similar to recent Mountain Goats albums in that it continues the band’s honing of the fuller, …
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July 29, 2021
July 29, 2021