D.L. Anderson/Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
The Mountain Goats' "Estate Sale Sign" takes two entire lives and reduces them to junk that can't even be given away.
The Mountain Goats' "Estate Sale Sign" takes two entire lives and reduces them to junk that can't even be given away. D.L. Anderson/Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
Song: "Estate Sale Sign"
Artist: The Mountain Goats
CD: All Eternals Deck
Every few years, The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle writes a blistering anthem, suitable for shouting yourself hoarse after everything you hold dear has been pulverized into a fine powder. "No Children," "This Year" and many others are better shouted than sung, and "Estate Sale Sign" — a white-knuckle gem from the recent All Eternals Deck — is particularly scathing, taking two entire lives and reducing them to junk that can't even be given away.
Surveying a relationship where once-coveted items are picked over and forgotten — where the subjects of old photos are "dressed up like unloved icons, gathering dust up on the wall" — Darnielle looks back on the wreckage with precious little false nobility. There are no villains or victors here, no blame to be placed or points left to be scored. In that way, "Estate Sale Sign" is as brutally sad as breakup songs get: With no battle left for anyone to win or lose, what's left? Once the spoils of long-forgotten fights are doled out to an indifferent world, there's nothing to do but look back on the war, distill the emptiness into a song, and holler along.
This story originally ran on March 29, 2011.