Wednesday, July 8, 2009

we've got stars in our eyes tonight.

Today's recommendation, the third of this quintet of recommendations, is

The Mountain Goats' Full Force Galesburg

I'm not picking out a favorite or best Mountain Goats album here. I'm just Recommending this one because once upon a time, and a very miserable time it was, I lived all alone in a tiny German village on the Polish border and this album was, for whatever reason, how I stayed sane. I'm not sure this post is even really about the album, but please, you're here to listen to me bloviate, aren't you?

You remember periods in your life in associative ways: In those days I would read such-and-such book. You use the progressive tense: I was listening, I was reading, I was doing.

But it is only recent technology that has made music iterative in this way: In those days, using my newfangled refurbished 2nd generation iPod that already looked obsolescent, I would walk around every day and listen to Full Force Galesburg over and over and over. Specifically, and mostly, I would listen and re-listen to "Maize Stalk Drinking Blood" and "Evening in Stalingrad," which seemed so eerily apropos to my situation and surroundings. As late summer turned to fall and I should have been inside, I would walk around until my fingers were numb.

The album was and became like a collection of short stories that quickly became dog-eared and annotated, as I walked around in the cool air (sometimes for the hell of it I would walk to Poland, just to be able to say that I had). The language constructed my understanding of a world that made very little sense. The sparseness of the guitar and John Darnielle's vocals matched perfectly the minimalist, depressing Soviet-bloc buildings, many of which were slowly being reclaimed by squatters, by graffiti artists, or by nature.

I have never been to Galesburg, and I don't know the dogs. But I do know that the infinite sky seemed so much bigger and so much more magical and bearable when the music took me there. The loneliness I felt seemed holy somehow, like there was a portal linking the German border to it.

Mountain Goats fans - a notoriously insular and at times even elitist group - may disagree with this assessment, but I don't care. I don't want to argue about the nuances of split 7 inches or unreleased cassettes or talk about my record collection or discuss this album in the context of a discography. I just want to speak about why I recommend this album to you because it's so important to me. Maybe it will be important to you.

Therefore, I recommend Full Force Galesburg to you.


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