Sammy the Seal

“Twin high-maintenance machines”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 15 June, 2012 at 18:56

Song: This Year
Artist: The Mountain Goats
Album: The Sunset Tree

Ah, two of my favorite things: good storytelling, and upbeat music over more dramatic, “heavy” sentiments (e.g., the refrain). I guess I could say three things, if you include a simple, but effective hook, but that goes without saying. It’s a shame I haven’t taken to much of John Darnielle’s output as a whole, because he has a quite unique voice. I’ve heard him sound a bit spirited from time to time, but the music never quite matched it. The vast majority of his songs are played solely on acoustic guitar, rarely being matched with fuller arrangements. I’m sure it’d stand out fine acoustically, but with the simple addition of adding piano and stomping percussion, this song is an undeniable rush, despite being essentially an “unplugged” performance. I think it’s safe to say this is by far the most, if not only, jaunty, toe-tapping tune in the Goats’ repertoire. Not that the subject matter is too hefty, but the refrain is pretty universal, even if it sounds melodramatic, so it always helps when music helps the pill go down. Not that I can relate specifically to the story, but at the very least I have to give it up for the lyricism and detail. I give propers to his work with his pen on this one. And yet, there’s nothing really hidden, it’s a pretty literal song. And, even if one can’t relate directly or personally to the themes, the overall message or sentiment can apply anywhere: nervous, unsure hope and resolve, but hope and resolve nonetheless.

Thanks to Craig Finn to alluding to this song out on The Hold Steady’s song “Girls Like Status”, when he sang, “it was song #3 on John’s last cd– ‘gonna make it through this year if it kills me.'” (“This Year” is, yes, the third track on the album.) Of course, of all the 500+ songs I borrowed from someone else’s collection, I’m sure I would’ve latched on to this song anyway. I’d guess that among the devotees, this is one of his most well-known songs. Not just because it’s good, but because of its spirit and pop feel. Energy like this is hard to miss, and to deny.


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