Songs for Pierre Chuvin
When the coronavirus drove half the world inside in March 2020, North Carolina-based singer-songwriter John Darnielle took his old Panasonic boombox down from the shelf and started turning out a song a day for 10 days straight, each finished during 90-minute breaks away from his wife and kids. The result, Songs for Pierre Chuvin, hearkens back to Darnielle’s earliest work as The Mountain Goats—a period Darnielle hasn’t revisited since 2002’s All Hail West Texas. But you don’t have to be a member of Darnielle’s cult to find your way through this stuff. Instead, consider Chuvin a set of simple, badass music chronicling the hope and urgency of people rushing bravely into the unknown—yes, couched in the perspective of fourth- and fifth-century Pagans trying to survive the Roman Empire’s turn toward Christianity. (If you’re wondering, Chuvin was a French historian and the author of A Chronicle of the Last Pagans.) But if Darnielle has ever had talent as a songwriter, it’s in putting his listeners in league with people they probably never bothered to think about, let alone empathize with. So while you may have never had to face death for your beliefs (“January 31, 438”) or stare into the abyss of an uncertain tomorrow (“The Wooded Hills Along the Black Sea”), Darnielle figures you probably know a thing or two about the camaraderie of hunkering down and staying strong.