The Mountain Goats' In League with Dragons surges with wild tales of revenge and redemption, heroes at a crossroads, and great figures in decline. The band present twelve new songs penned by John Darnielle that luxuriate in a wide swath of sounds, from shades of the '80s Athens scene to swaths of outlaw country and a few motorik meditations. In League with Dragons was engineered by Matt Ross-Spang (Margo Price, Jason Isbell, John Prine) and recorded by the Mountain Goats – songwriter and guitarist Darnielle, drummer Jon Wurster, bassist Peter Hughes, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN. Robert Bailey contributed additional vocal arrangements and strings were performed by the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra.
"This album began life as a rock opera about a besieged seaside community called Riversend ruled by a benevolent wizard, for which some five to seven songs were written. When I'm focusing on a project, I always distract myself from the through-line with multiple byways, which are kind of like mini-games within the broader architecture of a long video game. As I worked on the Riversend stuff, weird noir visions started creeping in, probably under the influence of Leonardo Sciascia (a Sicilian author, he wrote mysteries) and Ross MacDonald's The Zebra-Striped Hearse, which a friend from Port Washington gave me while I was in the thick of the writing.
"I thought these moods helped complicate the wizards and dragons a little, and, as I thought about my wizard, his health failing, the invasion by sea almost certain to wipe out half his people, I thought about what such a person might look like in the real world: watching a country show at a midwestern casino, or tryout pitching for an American League team years after having lit up the marquees. Finally, I wrote the title track, which felt like a drawing-together of the themes in play: rebellion against irresistible tides, the lush vistas of decay, necessary alliances. I am earnestly hoping that a new genre called "dragon noir" will spring from the forehead of nearly two years' work on these songs, but, if not, I am content for this to be the sole example of the style." - John Darnielle