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Sled Island Music Festival – Guest Curator: Julien Baker

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Album Review: The Mountain Goats – In League With Dragons

Monday 08th, April 2019 / 11:38
By Graeme Wiggins

The Mountain GoatsIn League With Dragons
[Merge Records]

You might be forgiven for hoping or expecting that In League With Dragons would be a straightforward Dungeons & Dragons themed concept album. John Darnielle has a penchant for statement albums and playing with concepts. Goths, his last, was playing with genre, while Beat The Champ was a wrestling themed album. This album however plays with concept and genre in a much more loose and fluid way.

There are definite moments of D&D influence (the “huge wings blotting out the sun” and reference to famous fantasy artist Boris Vallejo on the title track, the hungry older gods of “Younger” or “Clemency for the Wizard King”). In interviews, he’s expressed desire for this genre, which he dubs “dragon noir” to catch on. It’s a heady mix of well told tales that all work as a unified whole despite the initially disparate timelines and characters. Musically, the album is a little more stripped down than the last few previous albums, largely acoustic guitar driven, with some horn flourishes here and there. While the stories are on the dark side of things (there’s references to cadaver sniffing dogs and strychnine) the hopeful delivery helps temper the darkness.

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