The Mountain Goats must have really enjoyed their last visit to our shores- all of six months ago, when they entertained us with their candid, intimate live shows that drew many an accolade. If you go and see John Darnielle strum his acoustic with as much vigor as he can muster this time around, you may notice a new addition to the merch stand- albeit that new addition may be obscured by a throng of eager indie kids. A fresh EP to add to their already expansive musical catalogue. It's a tour EP (that's right, a tour EP produced for the sole purpose of being sold in this here country of ours) by the name of Babylon Springs.

  
  

Darnielle gives us a representative sample of his work on this five track EP, with a mixed bag of emotions, tempos and vocal styling. The first single to receive radio play to date, is the catchy 'Alibi'. Hand claps and an off beat electric guitar pluck ride alongside Darnielle's flowing strums, with the unheralded bass of Peter Hughes laying the gentle foundations. The much loved lyrics muse about the daring of being ‘the other man'; and quite an eager other man at that- ‘With a gleam in my eye/ and an almost, airtight, alibi'- how does he make cheating sound so right?

  
  

Darnielle seems to posses the ability to make a song so personal and heartfelt, even when the number in question quite plainly isn't his. 'Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise' is a cover of a song by the Trembling Blue Stars. This tune meanders through those ‘bruising' feelings of a love unrequited; a real ‘lonely country road at night' feel to the general rhythm helps to add extra poignancy, giving Darnielle a new ownership of this lovely tune.

  
  

The inclusion of drums on this EP, which is the case with much of Darnielle's previous recordings (as opposed to the live performances), gives the songs a punchy direction and overall optimism that helps define them. The opening track 'Ox Baker Triumphant' and title number 'Sail Babylon Springs' use to skins as an effective change up amidst the honesty and openness of the storytelling. That punch is not lost in the live performances however, simply transposed with extremely vigorous acoustic guitar strumming.

  
  

Essentially, it is nice to get lost in some genuine songwriting for about 17 minutes. Darnielle's lyrics are quite clearly the cornerstone of his music; his honesty allows us to make a connection to his words, drawing out a vivid imagery. We are along for the ride amidst the debauchery with lines like ‘I made my way down the street toward your place/stepping lightly in the dark.' With news that the Mountain Goats are putting the finishing touches on a new full length album, due out around spring time, fans will have plenty of great material to immerse themselves in this year, if this tour EP is anything to go by.

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