The Sunset Tree - The Mountain Goats

Universal acclaim - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 28
  2. Negative: 0 out of 28
  1. It's a gloves-off catharsis occurring in real time for the gifted singer/songwriter, and it leaves a mark on the listener as well.
  2. You might think that an album about child abuse would be hard to listen to, but as always, hearing Darnielle's lyrics is an honor and a privilege.
  3. 80
    These surging, wordy confessionals are sometimes redemptive but never maudlin. [May 2005, p.121]
  4. That’s the first thing that’s striking about The Sunset Tree: the arrangements on this record are spectacular.
  5. While the material is at times uncomfortable and discomfiting, one can't help but be fascinated - and a little touched.
  6. Clearly, John Darnielle has a life story that’s inspiring as more than just the tale of an unconventional indie rock hero. Now that he’s making his best music, I think we can all be glad that he’s finally telling it.
  7. He sometimes wastes these tales on coy indie-folk, but when he cuts to the bone... the results can be extraordinary. [13 May 2005, p.89]
  8. 86
    Darnielle has not lost his talent for storytelling. [#15, p.99]
  9. The Sunset Tree may just be The Mountain Goats's most poetic, coherent work.
  10. The Mountain Goats find a way to bounce back from the psychiatrist-worthy lyrics with strong, vibrant but subtly crafted compositions.
  11. 70
    The Sunset Tree can be bleak, but it's also redemptive. [#68, p.104]
  12. 70
    Not exactly a comfortable listen, but Darnielle's candour can't be faulted. [Jun 2005, p.109]
  13. Ultimately the album is bolstered by the risks he takes, and though it trips a bit and never quite achieves the direct vision of previous efforts, it's rewarding nonetheless, for the perspective it brings to Darnielle's body of work.
  14. If you've ever wondered what growing up in middle-class 1970s America would have been like, these deeply personal revelations are for you. [30 Apr 2005, p.64]
  15. There’s so much here to enjoy, we can tolerate the occasional lyrical overreach.
  16. Oddly, at times it seems like Darnielle works more movingly and astutely when he's inventing his tales rather than partaking in personal anecdote and/or trauma.
  17. The emotions on The Sunset Tree are raw. It's a testament to Darnielle's abilities that he reins in those emotions enough to create such a powerful and coherent exhibit of his internal life.
  18. Digs into childhood trauma with all the acoustic verve and wit you expect from this guy.
  19. Sunset Tree is Darnielle’s finest hour.
  20. 83
    Darnielle's written some of the toughest and most open-souled music of his lo-fi outlet's oft-brilliant history. [May 2005, p.110]
  21. The Sunset Tree feels like Darnielle's most personal record to date, and it's certainly his most immediately accessible, musically speaking.
  22. The Sunset Tree is one of the most volatile, affecting and coherent records he’s made yet.
  23. The cleaned-up sound and aggressive posturing make The Mountain Goats sound like a youthful Bruce Springsteen backed by The Waterboys.
  24. It may be Mr. Darnielle's best album so far (which is saying a lot) and his most straightforwardly autobiographical (which isn't saying much). [25 Apr 2005]
  25. This is a record that only Darnielle could pull off: in the hands of a less skilled writer and vocalist, it would fall flat or grate the nerves as so much hyperemotional posturing.
  26. 80
    The further [Darnielle] drifts from his lo-fi allegiances and into lush studio environments, the more autobiography intersects with the dramatic storytelling which has always been the Californian's forte. [Jun 2005, p.98]
  27. An album where even the lesser songs contain at least one exceptional moment. [#10, p.116]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 28 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 14
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 14
  3. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Oct 15, 2010
    I am a huge, huge mountain goats fan; with that being said, this is actually one of my least favorite Mountain Goats albums. But, that doesn't change the fact that it's a mountain goats album, which means that even if its lackluster in comparison to, say, All Hail West Texas or We Shall All be Healed, it's still phenomenal; "Dance Music", "Broom People", "This Year", and "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod" are all standout tracks. This is a heart-wrenchingly intimate album, which is both its greatest strength, and one of its few minor pitfalls at times. All in all, though, a solid album in a career defined by masterpieces. Full Review »