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preorder - out 6/28/2024

UPC: 673855080048
Format: TAPE
Release Date: JUNE 28, 2024

John Darnielle, on The Coroner’s Gambit

There are few records in the Mountain Goats catalog that are closer to my heart than The Coroner's Gambit. It bears a sonic thumbprint shared by none of its brethren (Panasonic RX-FT500, Marantz PMD-222, and sessions in Omaha probably recorded to a Tascam Porta-One) and while two of those sources appear on several later releases, none of the other records really sound like it. Although it contains exactly no autobiographical songs, it feels personal to me — intimate, diaristic. I have vivid memories of the songs I wrote and recorded in Colo, and foggy memories of the Greyhound trip to & from Omaha. I was taking Greyhounds across midwestern state lines to record songs with friends when I made The Coroner's Gambit, is what I'm saying. You can maybe hear the exhaust of the Greyhound in the songs if you listen close.

Originally released in October 2000, The Coroner’s Gambit finds John Darnielle between physical and sonic spaces, five of its sixteen songs recorded in Simon Joyner’s Omaha, Nebraska, studio, five more at home in Colo, Iowa, and the rest in Ames.

The album came together slowly; the Mountain Goats had released music every year from 1991 to 1998, but between the release of that year’s New Asian Cinema EP and The Coroner’s Gambit, 1999 passed without an official Mountain Goats release. The additional time that went into The Coroner’s Gambit paid off: it is a breakthrough for Darnielle as a songwriter and practitioner of the full-length album. His characters are sharply drawn, the immaculately appointed lore of the worlds they occupy providing them some shelter from the storm. He has grown as a guitarist and in voice, wringing moments of sweetness and humor from songs of fury and lament, nimbly modulating from mourning to longing, passing air through the lungs of the dead and survivors alike.

The mix of home and studio recordings grants The Coroner’s Gambit
a thrilling sense of immediacy while pointing towards a future that is soon to break open with All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee. The Coroner’s Gambit is a masterpiece in its own right, an introspective epic that further burnishes Darnielle’s reputation as one of our greatest songwriters, one whose gift for confessional fabulism knows few rivals.

In the ensuing years since its original release The Coroner’s Gambit has become somewhat tricky to pin down in its entirety. Releasing the CD for the segment of the Mountain Goats massive who just wanted the songs, and the LP for those drawn to the ephemera of the album as a package, vinyl copies were housed in a paper bag that had additional Darnielle-penned liner notes printed on them. One thousand vinyl copies were issued, and, based on reports from the collector’s scene, far fewer than one thousand bags survive to the present, its text living on largely through Flickr albums and fansites. The 2024 reissue marks the passage of time with new text and liner notes by Darnielle for CD and LP.


1. Jaipur
2. Elijah
3. Trick Mirror
4. Island Garden Song
5. The Coroner’s Gambit 6. Baboon
7. Scotch Grove
8. Horseradish Road

9. Family Happiness
10. Onions
11. “Bluejays and Cardinals” 12. Shadow Song
13. There Will Be No Divorce 14. Insurance Fraud #2
15. The Alphonse Mambo
16. We Were Patriots


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