“All Hail West Texas”: Soundtrack to my quarantine

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 at 1:52 PM
“All Hail West Texas”: Soundtrack to my quarantine by Jackson Loepp

Music can be a great comfort in dealing with both self-isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, staff writer Jackson Loepp talks one such comfort: “All Hail West Texas,” the 2002 album from The Mountain Goats.  

One of my favorite albums, “All Hail West Texas,” features Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle turning snapshots of regular people living their lives in Texas into songs. The album, the sixth studio effort from the moniker, was initially released in 2002 and was the last of their albums to be recorded entirely by Darnielle until very recently. 

The Mountain Goats formed in 1991, with Darnielle being the sole member and founder. Early songs often featured other local acts assisting with recording, and Darnielle has maintained that style throughout his career, with The Mountain Goats being known for having a revolving cast of talented musicians assisting in the creation of various projects.

For “All Hail West Texas,” however, Darnielle was the only musician featured through the record, forgoing his accompaniment to give the album a more personal feel. His music, with or without accompaniment, has a very distinct folk-indie sound, with many of their older releases using the sound of the tape recorder as an instrument, letting the dull hum inject a feeling of melancholic nostalgia into the tracks. This hum remains in remasters and digital releases, maintaining an analog feel in the new age. 

The album starts with a song that has grown to be one of the band’s most popular: “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” It’s a track that chronicles the lives of two young men and the way their stylistic mismatch with Denton, Texas leaves them at odds with society. But the album continues on with other songs that detail the lives and losses of further residents. My personal favorite on the album is “The Mess Inside”; it’s a powerful track about lost love and the passage of time. “Waco” also hold personal value to me, as it reminds me of the time I spent living in the city, and the song itself does a strangely good job of recapturing what it was like to live there. 

I heavily recommend giving this album a listen, and if you like it, there is no shortage of music produced by The Mountain Goats for you to listen to. With isolation, things have been rough for so many, and music is a great way to relax and step away from it all. “All Hail West Texas” is a great escape, and the weather isn’t too hot there this time of year anyway.  

You can stream all of The Mountain Goats music on Spotify, including their newest album, “Songs for Pierre Chuvin.” If you like “All Hail West Texas,” I would recommend “The Sunset Tree” as another great album for getting acquainted with The Mountain Goats. It features many iconic tracks such as “This Year.” “All Hail West Texas” was released under the Emperor Jones label, although the band currently is signed by Merge Records.  

Tags: coronavirus

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