In 2005, I was just out of college, living in Brooklyn, jobless, and spending nearly all of my waking time in coffee shops in indulgent attempts to mimic my writerly heroes, those grungy, grimy palaces of wisdom and melancholy and metaphorical ketchup sandwiches tucked into moth-riddled pockets.
That year, The Mountain Goats also released The Sunset Tree.
I had been listening to John Darnielle and his lo-fi wonderings for a little while before that, but this is the album that stuck, that changed me.
It's not as though albums previously hadn't made an impact; both Tallahassee and We Shall All Be Healed were featured regularly in road trips, me, the driver, singing achingly until my throat burned. I adored those albums.
But, in The Sunset Tree, it was as though Darnielle had plunged directly into my emotional core. I listened to "This Year" and I was reminded that I wasn't alone.
Like someone telling me it was okay to be fucked up and wavering and rubbed-raw.
Even though my heart would remain guarded, even though the remnants of control lingering from the eating disorder hadn't faded entirely, even though my own relationship with my father would persist until I found the courage to break free.
I still made it through that year—and this year—and the next year after that. And it hasn't killed me. And I am still here.
Thank you, John Darnielle.