The first volume of Merge’s 25th-anniversary seven-inch subscription series, Or Thousands of Prizes, pits two local dignitaries against one another on a green single. Both the rebellious spirit and electric crags of Neil Young have always been central to Mount Moriah. They take his “Revolution Blues” for an uneasy trip here, with the bristling guitar and overactive bassline emphasizing the unrest in Heather McEntire’s delivery. Young simply sounded mocking in 1974; 40 years later, McEntire sings from the verge of action.

John Darnielle has already based an entire Mountain Goats album around the piano, so his instrumental choice for his take on the mid-’80s, solo Ozzy hit “Shot in the Dark” isn’t shocking. Neither is the way he emphasizes the personal despair that sublimates into resolve”I learned how to fight/I opened up my mind to treason,” he seethes. The shock, though, comes after the first chorus, when Darnielle himself steps out for a brief electric guitar solo, one of the very few in the Mountain Goats’ massive catalogue. It’s hesitant at first, but at song’s end, Darnielle winds through the riff again with a touch of gusto, letting it fade like dusk.

Label: Merge Records

This article appeared in print with the headline “Discomfort zones”