The Mountain Goats remain the passion project of frontman John Darnielle, pulling in different talented people and creating a nearly entirely new sound with each project. The main unifying factor seems to be Darnielle’s voice, an iconic and immediately recognizable fundament of TMG as a band. With their October 27, 2023 release Jenny from Thebes, TMG continues their emotionally complex musical style with implementation of various jazz, country, and folk elements.

              The first song on the album, “Clean Slate,” was formerly released as a single. The simple, lowkey start and smooth lyricism brings images of barbershop quartets and the so-called ‘simpler time’ of the past. The usage of piano and horn for a band known for its folk punk roots builds this barbershop era sound. Overall, the lyrics focus on emotional turmoil and far more importantly, moving past conflict and emotional distress in your life. This song, if anything from this album is to make it a hit the way TMG’s song “No Children,” has great potential to become a hit.

              Another great song on the album is “Ground Level,” with lyrics that are far less immediately emotional compared to “Clean Slate,” echoes more upbeat and positive artists that “Clean Slate,” though I wouldn’t necessarily say its necessarily a happy song. The continued use of piano and trumpet or trombone continues to build this sound as one of complicated, classical instrumentalism in comparison to earlier TMG projects.

              “From the Nebraska Plant” moves in the opposite direction, a slow-moving, emotional revelation as to a vision. The song focuses on the subject of the entire album, Jenny, discussing an incident with in which the narrator rode her “custom Kawasaki” with her. The lyrics seem to reveal a sense of anxiety that Jenny must have saved him from, of which he could only really conquer for himself by becoming stronger. It seems Jenny likely passed, having been killed at the end of the song, something that the narrator continues to mourn to this day.

              The last song I wish to speak of today is “Same as Cash,” which continues almost every single other note mentioned, the simple guitar and piano playing with the complicated emotional lyrics sung with such a unique voice propping up this track. I find it incredibly funny to hear the mention of Walmart and Civic sedans in a song that sounds this inspired by older artists. The usage of what sounds like a violin, in cohesion with the piano builds this sentiment to such a genuinely beautiful instrumental section towards the end of this song.

              Jenny from Thebes is an incredible album. With a band as eclectic and passionate as The Mountain Goats, JfT pushes forward such a unique energy and vibe that, while you can tell has roots in other TMG projects, is one all of its own. I highly recommend you listen through this album, including the songs I didn’t mention here, and see the art as a whole as I have.

Photo Credits from: Merge

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