The Gospel According to John Darnielle. the Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth.

John Darnielle is a bastion of erudition; a songwriter with more stories to tell than there are papyral pages to the Bible. He's a rare talent – Einsteinian of mind, and without contemporary. Needless to say, therefore, it'd be quite nice to have a few more of his kind setting the particles about us to a gentle quiver. Yet the great heights scaled by the Mountain Goats may then seem comparative molehills in place of imposing mounts. The miscreant-scrutinising We Shall All Be Healed remains their zenith from the lowly perch upon which I sit, although since 2004 Darnielle has explored the at times equally malign scriptures of Christianity in The Life Of The World To Come and, most recently, the varying methodologies and mythologies of clairvoyance on 2011 LP, All Eternals Deck. A touch over eighteen months later, and Darnielle (mercifully for all those acolytes that venerate him so) returns with Transcendental Youth. The concept continues to revolve around the conceptual, and it's this time a vivid compendium of various Washingtonians either inhabiting a desperate solitude, or bedevilled by psychological sickness. Somewhat ominous subject matter then, although Darnielle inevitably treats these acquaintances and tormented souls (factual or fictitious) with a tenderness and, as ever, with an unerring intelligence.

"Something sacred/ Something blue", as Darnielle intones pseudo-sardonically on In Memory of Satan, is precisely what Transcendental Youth thereby proves to be: despairing, yet with it irrefutably delightful. The diligence with which he approaches what is now an assiduously honed craft is admirable in a time of waning artistry and, as such, the result is one of unalloyed originality. There's little recycling of older endeavours here, nor much at all borrowed from elsewhere. Cry for Judas, all brass blare and acoustics that tumble like thistly weed across minimal rhythms, recalls elements of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, yes, but it's one of the album's less inventive instances. That, and Until I Am Whole upon which that weird vocal processor favoured throughout 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong proffers the impression that Mogwai ventured transatlantic and infected the otherwise all-pervasive placidity of it all with an in every respect alien desolation.

For elsewhere, whether its barnstorming opener Ama aka Spent Gladiator 1 – the tale of the unsettled young lady hellbent on doing "every stupid thing that makes you feel alive" in futile exertion to "try to drive the dark away" – or the portentous rumbles of Night Light, Transcendental Youth is a tour de force in encapsulating the trials, tribulations, and trepidations of troubled juveniles. Paranoid and oft pained, it's a triumph. The sparse and elegant-as-airborne-gaggle balladry of White Cedar; the disquietingly upbeat The Diaz Brothers, during which you'd be significantly less shocked were Kiki Dee to materialise for a chorus than were the Anonymous 4 to throw in some of those glorious backing harmonies; the softer-than-snow sendoff that is the album's eponymous waltz.

You know how it is with Darnielle – there are enough elegiac stanzas within his each and every composition to fill up to five "reviews" there or thereabouts. Lakeside View Apartments Suite – vaguely mawkish chorus aside – is one such song as it drips wondrous poeticism, and his words are as poignant throughout as those snared on the spools of any which audiobook, or indeed any cassette ever manufactured for that matter. Thus to decontextualise upon this here page is to do a disservice to the great many ways in which he espouses superb, concertedly lo-fi musics with verisimilitudinous snippets of life lyrical. Best neglect the Synoptics of Matthew, Mark and Luke, therefore, for it's the comprehensively compelling Gospel According to John Darnielle which ever so greatly informs. And it may inform all – from "the loneliest people in the whole wide world", to those most popular already living The Life Of The World To Come. Epiphanic, as ever.