John Darnielle has written almost 600 songs now, and some
of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends,
hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain,
off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific
detail because he is a very good writer, and also some of them
are just true stories about his own life.
But many have noted that John Darnielle seems often very
happy, and his demeanor on stage is almost exclusively
Anyone who reads his Twitter feed knows he takes great delight
in his delights: vegan cooking, fat babies, hockey, the beautiful
alchemy of Chemex coffee, Anonymous 4, and playing music for
These are the consolations; and if some of his songs suggest
that there are real hells on earth, other songs remind that the
heavens are equally close at hand. (Sometimes they are even the
It is my impression that this is the ecstasy John Darnielle is
feeling: that thrill of having survived, escaped for even a second
to enjoy those small transcendent delights, and to sing of them.
Transcendental Youth is full of songs about people who madly,
stupidly, blessedly won’t stop surviving, no matter who gives up
I can report that it is a very good album and has many more
instruments on it than his early cassette tapes, including Peter
Hughes on bass, Jon Wurster on drums, and, for the first time, a
full horn section. And all of this makes a very joyous noise.
—John Hodgman, 2012