Sunset Tree

The Sunset Tree

5.0 2
by The Mountain Goats
     
 

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John Darnielle is a compulsive writer forever clutching his stomach as songs pour out uncontrollably into whatever recording device is in front of him. What sets him apart from other prolific artists in the indie rock world (Conor Oberst, Ryan Adams, Stephin Merritt) whose records/side-projects can't keep up with the flow of their pens, is his almost alarming gift for…  See more details below

Overview

John Darnielle is a compulsive writer forever clutching his stomach as songs pour out uncontrollably into whatever recording device is in front of him. What sets him apart from other prolific artists in the indie rock world (Conor Oberst, Ryan Adams, Stephin Merritt) whose records/side-projects can't keep up with the flow of their pens, is his almost alarming gift for pairing quantity with quality. After dropping the devastating Tallahassee--a record that followed in gory detail the imagined demise of a Florida couple's marriage--in 2002, he turned his focus inward, taking an almost autobiographical stance on the follow-up We Shall All Be Healed, a framework that is applied tenfold on the riveting Sunset Tree. This is John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow if it were set in southern California and narrated by Charles Bukowski. At the center is Darnielle's abusive stepfather, who slyly receives the album's dedication. He's a drunk, a misguided disciplinarian and a lousy role model for the young artist who plies away his days in a haze of liquor-fueled misogyny, wistful romanticism and good old-fashioned teen-angst, always aware that each night will end in violence. Darnielle's talent for writing an engaging narrative is matched only by the succinctness of the music behind it. This is especially true on standout cuts like "This Year," a near-perfect snapshot of youthful defiance with it's rousing, last road-trip-ever refrain of "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me" and "Lion's Teeth," an uncomfortable moment of clarity that looks rage in both eyes without flinching, using a string-laden backbeat to up the suspense. Despite Sunset Tree's white-knuckle subject matter and salt-in-the-wound imagery, it's surprisingly accessible. It's a gloves-off catharsis occurring in real-time for the gifted singer/songwriter, and it leaves a mark on the listener as well.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Kelefa Sanneh
Extraordinary... it may be Mr. Darnielle's best album so far (which is saying a lot).

Product Details

Release Date:
04/26/2005
Label:
4ad / Ada
UPC:
0652637250824
catalogNumber:
72508
Rank:
5716

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The Sunset Tree 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Darnielle, with the Sunset Tree, has created mini-novellas and with his incredibly taut yet seemingly "improvised" lyrics can evoke the most nostalgic and intense emotion. At the center IS this relationship with his abusive father, but it is more a pretext than an context, and the music is at the forefront. This idea comes out the most clearly and harshly through "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod." The switch to 4AD has made his lyrics soar through the instrumentation and he articulates with the best of them. He's also placed more soft-spoken songs (Dinu Lipatti's Bones is amazing, and seriously made me frozen with emotion the first time I heard it). The opening 2 tracks are incredible. His literary references are interesting (i.e. Roskolnikov from Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" in Love Love Love, the pianist Lipatti, among many others). What's most amazing is that his songs are so simple in their structures (he can fit a whole story into a few verses) yet new and their simplicity belies the references and the originality within the unpretentious character. The best this chameleon-like singer has released among his vast collection of magic tricks. He's also invested in working with a violin (in PGT), more piano, and what sounds like a piano/chimes in LLL). My only complaint is that his songs run so short (only Pale Green Things is over 4 minutes), but it does leave you wanting much more of what he's given. Those 5 stars are often thrown around, but rarely has something deserved it so much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want to feel the sensation of constant chills running up and down your spine, buy this record. These songs will stay with you long after you've stopped listening to them...if you ever do.