01 - You Or Your Memory
02 - Broom People
03 - This Year
04 - Dilaudid
05 - Dance Music
06 - Dinu Lipatti's Bones
07 - Up The Wolves
08 - Lion's Teeth
09 - Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod
10 - Magpie
11 - Song For Dennis Brown
12 - Love Love Love
13 - Pale Green Things
The Sunset Tree is a 2005 album from John Darnielle's main project, The Mountain Goats. While We Shall All Be Healed focused on Darnielle's years as a teenager involved with other meth users, The Sunset Tree talks much about his childhood, and features domestic violence as a recurring theme. An alternate, limited edition vinyl featuring demo recordings and b-sides, entitled Come, Come to the Sunset Tree, was sold as a tour-only LP with 1000 copies. Darnielle has said the album name came from a hymn mentioned in a particularly brutal scene in Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh.
Darnielle sardonically dedicates the album to his stepfather – by whom the album was "made possible." The album contains many lyrics referring to Darnielle's abusive childhood – especially noticeable in the songs "This Year" "Dance Music", and "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod." The tone of the album is somber and serious, dealing with Darnielle's longing for escape and his feelings of powerlessness, leading up to the song "Lion's Teeth", which has been described by Darnielle as a "revenge fantasy".
The album is summed up in the final two songs: "Love, Love, Love", in which he extols the virtue and folly of doing things for reasons of love, and "Pale Green Things", a quiet story in which the singer recalls a time when his stepfather took him out to watch the horses at the racetrack. Darnielle closes the song, and the album, with a lyric of his sister calling him to inform him of his stepfather's death.
From All Music Guide:
John Darnielle is a compulsive writer forever clutching his stomach as songs pour out uncontrollably into whatever recording device is in front of him. What sets him apart from other prolific artists in the indie rock world (Conor Oberst, Ryan Adams, Stephin Merritt) whose records and side projects can't keep up with the flow of their pens is his almost alarming gift for pairing quantity with quality. After dropping the devastating Tallahassee -- a record that followed in gory detail the imagined demise of a Florida couple's marriage -- in 2002, he turned his focus inward, taking an almost autobiographical stance on the follow-up, We Shall All Be Healed, a framework that is applied tenfold on the riveting The Sunset Tree. This is John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow if it were set in southern California and narrated by Charles Bukowski.
At the center is Darnielle's abusive stepfather, who slyly receives the album's dedication. He's a drunk, a misguided disciplinarian, and a lousy role model for the young artist who plies away his days in a haze of liquor-fueled misogyny, wistful romanticism, and good old-fashioned teen angst, always aware that each night will end in violence. Darnielle's talent for writing an engaging narrative is matched only by the succinctness of the music behind it. This is especially true on standout cuts like "This Year," a near-perfect snapshot of youthful defiance with its rousing, last-road-trip-ever refrain of "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me," and "Lion's Teeth," an uncomfortable moment of clarity that looks rage in both eyes without flinching, using a string-laden backbeat to up the suspense.
Despite The Sunset Tree's white-knuckle subject matter and salt-in-the-wound imagery, it's surprisingly accessible. 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.