The Dazing Power of John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats Win Over Chicago Fanboys and Fangirls With Ease



He is the only guitarist who wields an acoustic like it’s an axe. And that axe delivered a drop-dead ravishing performance Saturday night at the Vic Theatre in Chicago.

The genius behind the Mountain Goats –  John Darnielle – is also the only indie rocker who would ever introduce a tune by saying “This is a song about a psychiatric hospital” or “This is a song about when I was a teenage drunk.” And then burst into a track that isn’t slit-your-wrists depressing at all. It sounds uplifting.




John Darnielle is like an indie-rock novelist. His tunes are like chapters – each one telling the tale of some dysfunctional relationship, twisted love story or disheveled vagrant. But the music doesn’t sound anything like the lyrics. For the most part, the Mountain Goats’ music sounds rhapsodical and happy.

In fact, Darnielle is so prolific, he couldn’t accommodate a request to play “Fault Lines” because he didn’t know it. I don’t blame him.

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The Mountain Goats Greatest Hits

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 4



Since 1994, John Darnielle has recorded a total of 14 full-length albums under the moniker The Mountain Goats. An indie-rock legend, Darnielle has won the hearts of hipsters and critics and performed on a main stage at Lollapalooza.

Today, to celebrate the release of his 14th album Transcendental Youth, I bring you this Spotify playlist that I crafted – a greatest hits of the man who reinvented indie folk. 



In 2000, I was a lowly college radio DJ at Iowa State University. I was absolutely obsessed with The Mountain Goats and then suddenly my fellow DJs and I discovered that Darnielle was living in our college town. His wife was in grad school and playing for the Iowa State women’s hockey team.

When I realized Darnielle’s home base was Ames, IA, I immediately sought an interview with the Mountain man himself. He obliged, inviting me over to his West Ames house.

Darnielle used to record his music on a boombox and was still doing that at the time. He showed me a big box of cassette tapes, all filled with original songs he wrote and recorded solo acoustic. We drank red wine, ate chocolate and chatted about Norwegian death metal and quilt making. Yes, quilt making. Here is the article I wrote 12 years ago for the Iowa State Daily. 


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