At this point I’d like to lay down a grand theory about what makes Mountain Goats songs such good survival tools, but the truth is I don’t know. It’s easy to see why a balls-out anthem like “Heretic Pride” or “This Year” would be effective, but that doesn’t explain why so many people—myself among them—develop emotional dependencies on all the ugly little songs about dogs and owls and alcoholic Floridians. Their brevity helps, I suppose; JD doesn’t dick around building harmonies while you’re waiting to get healed. There is also the roughness of the early albums and the live recordings, which sound as if the man himself is shouting bracingly into your ear. But I think it’s mostly about the breathing room carved out by his metaphors. He has a poet’s gift for injecting universal feelings into specific and alien narrative contexts, which allows you to catch your own emotional bogeymen by surprise. If you discover that his song about moon-colony organ harvesting is actually about how criminally lonely you felt the first time you made yourself throw up, the obliqueness of this association makes it possible to look almost directly, even almost compassionately, at something that three minutes ago you’d have given anything to disown. Darnielle is in the business of reattaching limbs, gently steering us towards the things we need to feel about the parts of ourselves we need to hold onto.
Emma Stanford, “Let Us Consider The Mountain Goats”