Mountain Goats & r & & r & Heretic Pride & r & & r & 5 STARS & r & & r & No artist but John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats could put together an album about H.P. Lovecraft, assassinated reggae singers, spy novels, bacterial pressure cookers and Chinese lake monsters and have it be so compelling. His lyricism is unparalleled, with a "religious awe of geography" (his own words) and vast cultural literacy, resulting in ultra-specific portraits of fatally flawed people in various levels of distress. His continued collaborations with Scott Solter and John Vanderslice really bloom on Heretic Pride, with Darnielle rocking the hell out on a few tracks (something he really should do more often). Soaring strings, delicate piano and driving electric guitar round out the repertoire, but it all pales in comparison to Darnielle's frightening brilliance and precise economy of language. This is John's best album since 2002's Tallahassee, possibly his best yet. He's the legendary white whale. He's the Great American Novel. He's the Platonic ideal. He's my favorite artist in the world. He should be yours too.
Sleep Through the Static
Jack Johnson has slipped his Hawaiian state of mind into the American consciousness with recent records like In Between Dreams and the Curious George soundtrack. A real surf dude with a sound somewhere between James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett -- let's call him the bard of the beach.
But on Sleep Through the Static, the operative word is Sleep -- this is one super mellow record, beginning to end. Sure, it's a great listen, but there's nothing catchy, like "Never Know" from Dreams or "Upside Down" from Curious George.
Still, it's Jack Johnson and you have to admire his soulfulness and effortlessness -- it's just the kind of music you'd love to listen to as the sun goes down after a long day out in the Hawaiian waves. And it's guilt-free music, too -- recorded with 100 percent solar power.
--TED S. McGREGOR JR.
DOWNLOAD: "Sleep Through the Static"