If you have trouble finding the new The Mountain Goats’ album when it is released Tuesday, you might want to try and see if it was mistakenly stocked in the Christian music department. No, the trio hasn’t transitioned into religious music, but every track of The Life of the World to Come digs deeply into the Bible for lyrical inspiration. In fact, every track of the album is titled after a specific Bible passage. Frontman John Darnielle has already dismissed any suspicions that the project might be the result of some religious awakening. While this latest collection of songs is not representative of The Mountain Goats’ fullest artistic potential, it is still a listen-worthy testament of one of today’s best songwriters.
While the biblical song titles may come across as gimmicky, that is definitely not the case. The Mountain Goats’ strength has always been in Darnielle’s prowess as an elite lyricist, and his newest release is just as literate and multilayered as past efforts. For the most part, he avoids this project’s potential pitfall of being too preachy. This latest project dips into religion and spirituality to bring about well-thought lyrics set to lo-fi accompaniment.
The lyrical fidelity to the actual content of the title verses vary by song. While some songs such as “Romans 10:9” almost directly quote its passage as a chorus, others revolve around an ideal found within the verse without carrying the same message. Musically, The Mountain Goats provide an adequate minimalistic instrumentation that compliment its lyrics well.
While the lyrics are outstanding as usual, the music isn’t quite up to par with past Mountain Goats albums, and The Life of the World to Come tends to drag toward the middle. A few too many songs sound similar, and a handful are somewhat forgettable. While there are many good tracks on the album, none really stand out as solitarily excellent as past results.
What The Life of the World to Come makes for, then, is simply a package deal of mostly good songs that comprise a solid album. If nothing else, the lyrical strength and bold ambition of Darnielle and company make the new release worthy of attention.