The Life of the World to Come 1 2 3

Cover of The Life of the World to Come Back of The Life of the World to Come

Released: 2009
Label: 4AD

Liner notes

thanks to the Essenes 4 and peace to the scribes 5.

Early preorders of The Life of the World to Come came with a bonus CD of demos to much of the album (all but 1 Samuel 15:23 and Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace), both extras, and several outtakes (namely Daniel 12:8 (third) and Matthew 11:14 – 19), called The Life of the World in Flux. An alternate demo of Daniel 12:8, Daniel 12:8 (first), was later released online. An identically titled limited live film DVD was also available. A studio version of Proverbs 6:27 is available on downloads of the album from Amazon, while one for Enoch 18:14 is available on downloads from iTunes. Finally, Bride is an outtake.

Table of contents

  1. 1 Samuel 15:23
  2. Psalms 40:2
  3. Genesis 3:23
  4. Philippians 3:20–21
  5. Hebrews 11:40
  6. Genesis 30:3
  7. Romans 10:9
  8. 1 John 4:16
  9. Matthew 25:21
  10. Deuteronomy 2:10
  11. Isaiah 45:23
  12. Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace

1 Samuel 15:23 6 7

I became a crystal healer and my ministry was to the sick
Creeping vines would send out runners and seek me in their numbers
I sold
Self-help tapes
Go down to the netherworld
Plant grapes 8

And as word spread of my powers, they would seek me far and wide
All sad faces at my window, I would welcome them inside
I sewed clothes for them
Cloaks and capes
Go down to the netherworld
Plant grapes

My house will be for all people who have nowhere to go 9
My supply of shining crystals a shield against the snow
There's more like me where I come from
So mark our shapes 10
Go down to the netherworld
Plant grapes

Psalms 40:2 11 12 13

Pulled off the highway in Missouri and lo, our hearts were heavy-laden 14
Made for the chapel with some spraypaint for all the things we'd held in secret
Lord, lift up these lifeless bones
Light cascading through the windows, all the rainbow's heavy tones
He has fixed his sign in the sky 15
He has raised me from the pit and set me high 16

Left that place in ruin
Drunk on the spirit and high on fumes
Checked into a Red Roof 17 then stayed up for several hours and then slept like infants
In the burning fuselage of my days
Let my mouth be ever fresh with praise 18
He has fixed his sign in the sky
He has raised me from the pit and set me high

Each morning new
Each day shot through
With all the sharp small shards of shrapnel
That seem to burst out of me and you

Head down toward Kansas, we will get there when we get there, don't you worry
Feel bad about the things we do along the way but not really that bad
We inhaled the frozen air
Lord, send me a mechanic if I am not beyond repair
He has fixed his sign in the sky
He has raised me from the pit and he will set me high

Genesis 3:23 19 20 21

House up in Clear Lake 22
Where I used to live
Picked the lock on the front door
And felt it give

Touch nothing, move nothing, stand still
Keep my ears open for cars
See how the people here live now
Hope that they're better at it than I was

I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here

Pictures up on the mantle
Nobody I know
I stand by the tiny furnace
Where the long shadows grow

Living room to bedroom to kitchen
Familiar and warm
Hours we spent starving within these walls
Sounds of a distant storm

I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here

Fight through the ghosts in the hallway
Duck and weave
Stand by the door with my eyes closed
When it's time to leave

Steal home before sunset
Cover up my tracks
Drive home with old dreams that play in my mind
And the wind at my back

Break the lock on my own garden gate
When I get home after dark
Sit looking up at the stars outside
Like teeth in the mouth of a shark

I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here
I used to live here

Philippians 3:20 – 21 23 24 25

The path to the awful room
That no one will sleep in again
Was lit for one man only
Gone where none can follow him

Try to look down
The way he'd gone
Back of the closet whose depths go on
And on and on

Nice people said he was with God now
Safe in his arms
But the voices of the angels that he heard on his last days with us
Smoke alarms

Well, the path to the palace of wisdom 26
That the mystics walk
Is lined with neuroleptics 27
And electric shocks

Hope daily for healing
Try not to go insane
Dance in a circle with bells on
Try to make it rain

And nice people said he had gone home to God now
Safe in his arms, safe in his arms
But the voices of the angels singing to him in his last hours with us
Smoke alarms, smoke alarms

Hebrews 11:40 28 29 30

Masks hanging on the tomb walls
Where the coven grieves
Witches hiding in the brambles
Ground level down by the dry leaves

Blow and burn slowly
No ground is ever gonna hold me 31

White candles in the manor
Where the curse takes hold
Bodies reassembling down where the worms crawl
Make your own friends when the world's gone cold

It gets dark and then
I feel certain I am going to rise again
If not by faith then by the sword
I'm going to be restored

Build the fires to keep the beacon flashing
Where the earth lies flat
Blood calls to blood as the hours draw down
Invent my own family if it comes to that

Hold them close, hold them near
Tell them no one's ever going to hurt them here
Steal the treasure and try to leave town
Fight my way back down

Don't want to hurt anyone
Probably gonna have to before it's all done
Take to the hills, run away
I'm going to get my perfect body back someday
If not by faith then by the sword
I'm going to be restored

Genesis 30:3 32 33

For several days the visitors were here
We saw them turn down and we watched them disappear
Talked about the days they'd said were sure to come
Had a hard time believing

I remember seeing you, my tongue struck dumb
When you first came here from wherever it was you came from
The power in your voice, your rough touch
You keeping care of me, keeping watch

Open up the doors to the tent
Wonder where the good times went
I will do what you ask me to do
Because of how I feel about you

I saw his little face contract as his eyes met light
Try to imagine anything so bright
You only see it once and it steals until the dawn
And then it's gone forever

For several hours we lay there, last ones of our kind
Harder days coming, maybe, I don't mind
Sounds kind of dumb when I say it but it's true
I would do anything for you

Open up the promise of the day
Drive the dark things away
I will do what you ask me to do
Because of how I feel about you

Romans 10:9 34 35 36

Wake up sixty minutes after my head hits the pillow I can't live like this
And in the shower I am a sailor standing waiting ready for the ship to list 37 38
Everything looks burned up I'm too scared to look around
Don't feel like going on but come on make a joyful sound

If you will believe in your heart
And confess with your lips
Surely you will be saved one day

Try to think of ways to fix myself but everything ends in a cul-de-sac
The beast broke from the barn while we were sleeping, face it, face it, he's not coming back
Don't see what the point is in even trying to fight
Look for the bigger picture when I close my eyes real tight

If you will believe in your heart
And confess with your lips
Surely you will be saved one day

Look for the sign of Daniel 39
Consider the clues
Wait as long as I have to for good news

Wake and rise and face the day and try to keep the day from staring back at me
Busy hours for joyful hearts and maybe later head out to the pharmacy
Won't take the medication but it's good to have around
A kind and loving God won't let my small ship run aground

If you will believe in your heart
And confess with your lips
Surely you will be saved one day

1 John 4:16 40 41 42

In the holding tank I built for myself
It's feeding time
And I start to feel afraid 'cause I'm the last one left in line
The endless string of summer storms that led me to today
Began one afternoon with you long ago and far away

And someone leads the beast in on its chain
But I know you're thinking of me 'cause it's just about to rain
So I won't be afraid of anything ever again

In the cell that holds my body back
The door swings wide
And I feel like someone's lost child as the guards lead me outside
And if the clouds are gathering it's just to point the way
To an afternoon I spent with you when it rained all day

And someone leads the beast in on its chain
But I know you're thinking of me 'cause it's just about to rain
So I won't be afraid of anything ever again

Matthew 25:21 43 44 45

They'd hooked you up
To a fentanyl drip 46
To mitigate the pain a little bit
I flew in
From Pennsylvania
When I heard the hour was coming fast
And I docked in Santa Barbara
Tried to brace myself
But you can't brace yourself when the time comes
You just have to roll with the blast

And I'm an eighteen-wheeler headed down the interstate
And my brakes are gonna give and I won't know till it's too late
Tires screaming when I lose control
Try not to hurt too many people when I roll

Find the Harbor Freeway 47
And head south
Real tired
Head kind of light
I found Telegraph Road 48
I'd only seen the name on envelopes
Found the parking lot
And turned right

I felt all the details
Carving out space in my head
Tropicanas on the walkway
Neon red
Between the pain and the pills trying to hold it at bay
Stands a traveler going somewhere far away

And I am an airplane tumbling wing over wing
Try to listen to my instruments, they don't say anything
People screaming when the engines quit
I hope we're all in crash position when we hit

And then came to your bedside
And as it turns out, I'm not ready
And as though you were speaking through a thick haze
You said hello to me
We all stood there around you
Happy to hear you speak
The last of something bright burning, still burning
Beyond the cancer and the chemotherapy

And you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to its worth
It's three days later when I get the call
And there's nobody around to break my fall 49

Deuteronomy 2:10 50 51 52

The sun above me and the concrete floor below
Scratch at the chain links, maybe bare my teeth for show
Fed twice a day, I don't go hungry anymore
Feel in my bones just what the future has in store
I pace in circles so the camera will see
Look hard at my stripes, there'll be no more after me 53

Laze by the shoreline while the sailors disembark
Scratch out a place to sit and rest down in the dark
Smell something burning downwind just a little ways
They set up camp and sing and sweat and work for days
I have no fear of anyone, I'm dumb and wild and free
I am a flightless bird, and there'll be no more after me 54

In Costa Rica, in a burrow underground
Climb to the surface, blink my eyes, and look around
I'm all alone here as I try my tiny song
Claim my place beneath the sky but I won't be here for long
I sang all night the moon shone on me through the trees
No brothers left, and there'll be no more after me 55 56

Isaiah 45:23 57 58 59

If my prayer be not humble make it so
In these last hours, if the spirit waits in check, help me let it go
And should my suffering double let me never love you less
Let every knee be bent, and every tongue confess 59

And I won't get better but someday I'll be free
'Cause I am not this body that imprisons me

I read the magazines somebody brought
Hold them to my failing eyes until my hands get hot
And when the nurse comes in to change my sheets and clothes
The pain begins to travel, dancing as it goes

And I won't get better but someday I'll be free
'Cause I am not this body that imprisons me

If my prayer goes unanswered that's all right
If my path fills with darkness and there is no sign of light
Let me praise you for the good times, let me hold your banner high
Until the hills are flattened and the rivers all run dry 60

And I won't get better but someday I'll be free
'Cause I am not this body that imprisons me

Ezekiel 7 61 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace 62 63

The clouds explode and then the desert blooms
Someone will need to mop this floor for me
When I emerge I find my car
Like a cathedral in a dream of the future

Drive till the rain stops
Keep driving

Pull over and blast off when I get the chance
Clear as an insect's wings in sunlight
Flip on the high stakes radio
Try to sing the words right

Drive till the rain stops
Keep driving

I had his arms tied up behind him
We were together all day
Maybe make Culiacán 64 by sunset
Try to anyway

High as the clouds now
Drive till the rain stops
Keep driving

Enoch 18:14 65 66 67 68

I saw some old friends as I came to the city gate
They asked me where I'd been of late
I hadn't been anywhere, but what was I going to say
Two hopeful people, looking at me that way

You and your brother
You both escaped the curse
You can't comprehend what it's like 69

We stood in the sunlight, and they asked me where I'd been
Held the gate open, and told me to come on in
I saw the damp green grass, so nice on the other side
Couldn't explain myself to them, but I tried

You and your brother
You both escaped the curse
You can't comprehend what it's like

The ground was dry but giving, the sky was nearly black
Saw some old friends when I looked back
Remember my old home, haven't forgotten yet
What happens on the day when I forget

You and your brother
You both escaped the curse
You can't comprehend what it's like

Proverbs 6:27 70 71 72

Try to hide down in the darkness
Get accustomed to our shapes 10
Rained in 'til next week at the earliest
Go through an old box full of Betamax tapes 73

Pull the blankets up to my neck
And the screen began to glow
I cried real tears when they beat Chuck Norris down 74
Wait here in the shadows 'til the shadows let me go

And treat each crushing moment like a gift
And wait for the fog to lift

Pretend I'm waiting for a notice
From someone somewhere far away
Sit here and break things while I'm waiting
As day gives way to day gives way to day gives way to day

But while I try to let the shadows mask my movements
They're never gonna hide me like they used to
I watched the Delta Force save everybody from that plane on fire 74
I was watching wishing I had not lost track of you

I treat each crushing moment like a gift
And wait for the fog to lift


Thanks to Caliclimber, from whose excellent Flickr page I took the album art, to Harrison Lemke for pointing out additional Biblical references in Psalms 40:2 and Isaiah 45:23, to AKM Adam for correcting the lyrics of Romans 10:9, to Mairead Beeson for noting the reference to Blake in Philippians 3:20–21, to Dan Coffey for mentioning the town of Clear Lake near Ames, Iowa, and to Sam Duncan for noticing the link to Isaiah 56:7 in 1 Samuel 15:23.


  1. "It's twelve new songs: twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of." — Darnielle, John (2009, July 28). The Good News The Mountain Goats. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  2. The title is derived from the closing lines of the Nicene Creed, which in the Roman Catholic version states, "... We look for the resurrection of the dead, / and the life of the world to come. / Amen." The Nicene Creed, Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Vatican, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  3. This album and every song on it is part of the informal series of Biblical references. Generally, each song would be individually referenced to denote this, but as every song on the album falls into this category I considered this unnecessary. 

  4. The Essenes were a Jewish religious order around 200 BCE to 100 AD from which the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have originated. 

  5. Scribes in Israel were the copiers of the Torah as well as literate members of society who performed professional tasks related to being able to read, write, and manage documents. 

  6. "I do remember at some point I was pretty pleased with myself for saying, 'Well, this is a song about how I became a crystal healer and my ministry was to the sick.'" — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 28, 2012

    "This is a song about safe spaces." — Front Porch Festival, Wente Vineyards, Livermore, September 1, 2012

    "This is a song about good faith." — Judge John Hodgman, Episode 98: All Dogs Go to Trial, Sketchfest, San Francisco, February 20, 2013 

  7. "For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king." 1 Samuel 15:23, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  8. In Greek mythology, Tantalus was punished for his many misdeeds by being forced to stand, thirsty and hungry, in a fresh pool with a vine overhead full with grapes. When he reached for either the vine or the water, it would recede out of his grasp. It is unknown whether this reference was intended. 

  9. Likely a reference to Isaiah 56:7. This is clearest in the King James Version, which reads, "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

    Thanks to Sam Duncan for pointing this out! 

  10. These lines in 1 Samuel 15:23 and Proverbs 6:27 bear a remarkable similarity to each other and to the phrase in the Satanic Messiah liner notes. However, I've been unable to find a source for the line; if you know, I'd love to hear from you.

    AKM Adam, theologian and scholar who has written about the Mountain Goats, has this to say about these lines:

    this corresponds to a great extent to John's recurrent allusions to 1 Cor 13:12, though there's obviously a certain difference (or you'd have made the connection explicit). There's no consistent connection between a Greek word and the English gloss "shape", so the reference is harder to track down. HCSB apparently doesn't use "shape" at all in its New Testament (and none of the OT usages seem to fit Darnielle's usage). Among the candidates in Greek, I'd think first of eikôn (image), then homoiôma (likeness), morphê (form), schêma (form), eidos (form, appearance), but none of these seems just right. Interestingly, though, eidos is what Paul uses in 2 Cor 5:7 when he says "we walk by faith, not by sight (dia eidous)." If that's the clue (and it's tenuous), it would connect us again to the eschatological hope of true seeing, possibly connecting to 1 John 3:2, "...what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." And, of course, the transformation motif John alludes to in Phil 3:20-21.

    While Adventists might connect Sunday worship with the Book of Daniel, there's still no conventional phrase "the sign of Daniel" for which one might look. The closest candidate, to my mind, would be the revelation of the Son of Man in Daniel 7:

    "As I watched in the night visions,
    I saw one like a human being [Son of Man]
    coming with the clouds of heaven.
    And he came to the Ancient One
    and was presented before him.
    To him was given dominion
    and glory and kingship,
    that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him.
    His dominion is an everlasting dominion
    that shall not pass away,
    and his kingship is one
    that shall never be destroyed. "

    Even then, there's no "sign" one might recognise. That's the case also, though, for "the sign of Jonah", about which I wrote my first published article, so it probably doesn't make a big difference. If it's not the handwriting on the wall, then Daniel himself might be the sign: the prophet in a foreign country, making his way as best he can, trying to keep faith under hostile circumstances.

    AKM Adam, personal correspondence, April 10, 2016.  2

  11. "This is a story about the transcendental romantic joy of desecrating a church with the one you love." — August 5, 2011, Lollapalooza, Playstation Stage, Chicago. John expresses similar banter elsewhere, such as at the Troubadour, Los Angeles on December 16, 2011, where he implies that the lovers are men.

    This was inspired by Missouri's Precious Moments Chapel. 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009.

    John describes this song at some length in a 2009 interview. "I'm... saying that your ideas of God will come to rest upon you in your moment of profoundest degradation, which is kind of what that song is about." — Breihan, Tom (2009, September 8). John Darnielle Tells the Story Behind the Mountain Goats' Biblical New LP. Pitchfork Retrieved May 16, 2012 . 

  12. The demo for Psalms 40:2 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  13. "He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure." Psalms 40:2, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  14. Reminiscent of Matthew 11:28, in which Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

    King James Version of the Bible, retrieved October 28, 2014. 

  15. Signs in the sky are featured in several places in the Bible. Consider the following verses:

    Luke 21:11: "There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven."

    Jeremiah 10:2: "This is what the Lord says: "Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them..."

    Both references are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 11, 2013. 

  16. A direct quote of the Biblical verse in the title

  17. Red Roof Inns are a cheap motel chain in the United States. 

  18. This seems to reference Psalms 119:171: "My lips pour out praise, for You teach me Your statutes." Holman Christian Standard Bible, accessed May 11, 2013. 

  19. John describes this song as being about visiting places where one has lived and had intense, disastrous experiences, and specifically about breaking and entering houses where one formerly lived.. Listen for example to the banter at the Durham Be Easy Festival, August 14, 2009, Durham Armory, North Carolina. This is further described in the Breihan 2009 Pitchfork interview referenced more fully above, in which John describes feeling the need to go through his old places in Portland and Claremont as a way of coping with abuse.

    The interviewer notes that while John is wanting to revisit abusive or destructive households, the verse describes being cast out of Eden. In response, John says:

    "Well, everything's Edenic. Everything is. I really don't know what your past is like, but I've got to assume, like everyone else, you have plenty of pain in it, right? But when you go back to the places where the pain was at, you find that there was more stuff there, and that there's stuff about it that you miss just because it's you. Because that's who you were, and you grow to accept that. When you do that kind of stuff, whether it's Eden or not, it is. Every place that you left is Eden in some way." 

  20. The demo for Genesis 3:23 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  21. "So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken." Genesis 3:23, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  22. Clear Lake is the name of many towns, but given John's reference to Portland it perhaps refers to a unincorporated town near Salem, Oregon (map). However, John refers to his house being near North Broadway (Breihan 2009), placing it well within Portland city limits.

    Perhaps more likely is that the town is an homage to Clear Lake, Iowa, which is only an hour or so north of Ames, where John lived while writing the Coroner's Gambit. Thanks to Dan Coffey (of Ames himself!) for pointing this out!

    The house in this story may thus be fictional or from another part of his life, and could be from one of several states, including California and Iowa, both states where John has resided. 

  23. From Breihan 2009, Pitchfork:

    Pitchfork: 'Philippians 3:20 – 21', that's a verse about how Jesus will make your body like his body. That's when you're dying?

    JD: Yes. It's about what happens after you die.

    Pitchfork: That's what you're singing about there?

    JD: The song is actually about a specific person. I'm not going to say who, but it's a person of note.

    Pitchfork: Is it Michael Jackson?

    JD: No. [laughs] No, I would have to have been pretty fast to have written a Michael Jackson song, gotten into the studio, gotten it mastered into the sequence and ready for the album. The song is about the conflict between what people say happens after we die and the sort of lives we live. It's kind of an angry-at-God sort of song. Because you hear of people who suffered their entire life that, once they die, now their [sic] won't have bad days, because they're with God. People say that.

    And you think, well, maybe God could have been more merciful and let them off the hook earlier. Brought them into this place of no suffering and eternal bliss and presence of the most high a lot earlier and saved this person a lot of unnecessary pain, instead of having them suffer their entire lives. And in the case of people who are so damaged they wind up taking their own lives, well, you'd think an all-powerful God could have prevented that. It's in the nature of being all-powerful, right? I had a specific person in mind. The song is about the sorts of hard questions that come up when somebody kills himself. 

  24. The demo for Philippians 3:20 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  25. "... but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself." Philippians 3:20 – 21, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  26. A reference to William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In the section Proverbs of Hell, Blake writes:

    In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
    Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.
    The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

    The poem celebrates sensual pleasures and earthly feelings as having a spiritual place, in contrast to the morals typical of his time.

    Thank you to Mairead Beeson to pointing out this reference!

    Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Archived by Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 14, 2017. 

  27. Sung as, "Lined with psychotropics", in the demo. 

  28. "It is about the solitary universe of self-mutilation." — 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009 

  29. "... since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us." Hebrews 11:40, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  30. The demo for Hebrews 11:40 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  31. Sung as, "No grave is ever gonna hold me", in the demo. 

  32. The song is directly about the love in the Biblical story of Jacob and Rachel, who was barren and so asked Jacob to sleep with her handmaiden Bilhah so that the two of them could raise children together.

    "This is a song about three people who love each other and eventually four. People in Biblical times speaking out on the subject of what does and doesn't count as marriage, 'cause as it turns out, it's about who you love." 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009. See also Hopscotch, Durham, September 8, 2012; People's Place, Amsterdam, October 13, 2013. 

  33. "Then she said, "Here is my slave Bilhah. Go sleep with her, and she'll bear children for me so that through her I too can build a family." Genesis 30:3, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  34. John discusses writing Romans 10:9 in a Colorado hotel room after reading a Gideons Bible in the aforementioned 2009 Pitchfork interview. For context, see the quotation referenced in the Philippians 3:20 – 21 footnote.

    Pitchfork: Well, that ties in with "Romans 10:9".

    JD: Yeah, those two [referring to Philippians 3:20–21] are kind of a pair, I feel.

    Pitchfork: That's one of the few songs where you actually have the verse in the song. This one says that if you believe, then good things will happen to you. It seems to be someone keeping that in their head literally when everything in their life is going to shit.

    JD: That is a solid reading. There's a really personal aspect to it, too, that I don't want to go into. But that is one of the harder songs on the album. The last couple of years have been a challenge for me in a couple of ways. But yeah, you have these moments where you look for something to reach for. I think that's when people are very vulnerable to joining up with religion, when they're looking for some sort of promise. But it's also a time when you have to be honest with yourself about how attractive those promises are to you personally, not for some other person. The notion that you can make some decision to feel a certain way and be relieved of some suffering — that's legit, right? It's not something to be scoffed at or dismissed lightly.

    Pitchfork: Yeah, I mean, that's kind of the whole idea behind believing, right? That's how my dad always explained it to me.

    JD: Yeah. Because there is going to be a lot of suffering. So it would be nice to think that it won't have been in vain. 

  35. The demo for Romans 10:9 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  36. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  37. Although this lyric is listed in many places as "... waiting for the shift list", if you listen closely, the 'p' in 'ship' is very clear, as is the word 'to'. Thank you very much to AKM Adam for pointing this out, as I had initially mistaken the lyric as well. 

  38. Sung as, "And in the shower the little soaps and shampoos seem like ancient bottled ambergris", in the demo. Ambergris is a product of sperm whale digestion, used for many years in perfumes, as incense, or as a ward against illness. 

  39. No clear sign of Daniel exists in the Bible or religious practice, according to A.K.M. Adam. Adam suggests that John is referring to "the handwriting on the Belshazzar's Wall (Dan 5)" (p. 126), but mentions that there are several other possible signs in the Book of Daniel.

    Another possible interpretation involves the Eternal Gospel Church, an extreme sect of Seventh-day Adventism, which holds that changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday is a mark of the Antichrist. They gained notoriety by purchasing billboard space throughout the United States proclaiming that this Mark of the Beast is stated in Daniel 7:25: "He will speak words against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time."

    Adam, A.K.M. (2011). 'What these cryptic symbols mean': quotation, allusion, and John Darnielle's biblical interpretation. Biblical Interpretation 19: 109 – 128. 

  40. "This is a song about a desperate feeling that I wrote during a pretty dark time when I first bought a piano, because the only thing that could comfort me was the sound of one. And that was how those piano songs started to get written, was that I was having a very hard time and pianos managed to get to me in a way other things couldn't." — March 24, 2012, Kaufman Center Ecstatic Music Fest, New York.

    "This is a love song." — American Theater Company, Chicago, May 16, 2010 

  41. The demo for 1 John 4:16 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  42. "And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him." 1 John 4:16, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  43. From the 2009 Pitchfork interview:

    Pitchfork: 'Matthew 25:21' is pretty explicitly about watching someone die of cancer.

    JD: Yeah, that one is about my mother-in-law. Straight autobiographical song. It's about the time that I — oh man, it's hard to talk about. It's about the time that I called my wife from tour, and she had gone to be with her mom and she said, 'We're thinking it could come any minute.' I was on tour, and I couldn't not go say goodbye, so I canceled a show in Northampton, Massachusetts and flew home, drove in and stayed in that environment where someone is about to leave their body at a very young age. I was there for about 24 hours, and then I turned around and went back to tour and stepped from a cab onto stage. It was really disorienting in a really heavy, heavy way. So yeah. That's for her.

    This has been seconded elsewhere, see for example the beautiful version of this song on the March 29, 2011 KEXP session or at the American Can Factory, Chicago, May 16, 2010. 

  44. The demo for Matthew 25:21 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  45. "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!' Matthew 25:21, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  46. Sometimes John uses other narcotic painkillers here; on the March 29, 2011 KEXP session and at the American Can Factory, Chicago, May 16, 2010, he chose Demerol. 

  47. The Harbor Freeway is another name for State Route 110 between downtown Los Angeles and San Pedro Bay Harbor. Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California, California Department of Transportation, p. 175. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  48. A road running from East Los Angeles to La Mirada in Los Angeles County. Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities exist in the area. 

  49. Sung as, "I wish you were still around to break my fall", on the demo. 

  50. "This is to things that go extinct and are no more." — Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 16, 2012. See also 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009.

    "This is the sort of song a person might write if he's beginning to wonder if he's ever going to have children." Apolo, Barcelona, October 19, 2013 

  51. The demo for Deuteronomy 2:10 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  52. "The Emim, a great and numerous people as tall as the Anakim, had previously lived there." Deuteronomy 2:10, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012.

    The focus on extinctions in this song might also be seen in Genesis 30:3, which mentions being the last ones of our kind

  53. This refers to the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger), which became extinct in 1936. The last known thylacine died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in Australia, as described here. John confirmed that this is about the thylacine at the Troubadour show on December 16, 2011. McKnight, M. (2008) Thylacinus cynocephalus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2011.2. Retrieved on May 16, 2012. 

  54. This apparently refers to the dodo, which was hunted to extinction by 1690 on the island of Mauritius. BirdLife International. (2008). Raphus cucullatus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2011.2. Retrieved on May 16, 2012. 

  55. The final verse refers to the golden toad, a Costa Rican toad rendered extinct by climate change, among other causes. The last known toad was found in 1989. John confirmed this reference at the Troubadour, December 16, 2011: "I got so sad when I wrote that song. 'Cause this is about the golden toad in Costa Rica, there's none of them left at all, right. It's one of those documentably exinct animals that we killed so that we could cut some forest down." Pounds, Alan, Jay Savage, and Federico Bolaños.(2004). Incilius periglenes. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2011.2. Retrieved on May 16, 2012. 

  56. Sung as, "No others left, and there'll be no more after me", on the demo. 

  57. "This is about terminal illness." — November 12, 2010, Memorial Hall, Chapman University, Orange. This is echoed in Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012, and 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009. 

  58. The demo for Isaiah 45:23 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  59. "By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance." Stated very similarly to in the liner notes to All Hail West Texas. Isaiah 45:23, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012.  2

  60. A quotation from Isaiah 40:4, in which the speaker is exhorting their audience to build a path for God:

    Every valley will be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
    the uneven ground will become smooth
    and the rough places, a plain.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved October 28, 2014. 

  61. A lengthy prediction of destruction and judgement. Ezekiel 7, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  62. "As an American, I spent a lot of time thinking about people torturing one another to death in the desert, so that's what this song is about." — St George's, Bristol, October 7, 2013. Echoed in Front Porch Festival, Wente Vineyard, Livermore, September 1, 2012; Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 13, 2012; 9:30 Club, November 27, 2009; People's Place, Amsterdam, October 13, 2013.

    In an aside, John describes the protagonist as a "torturer/enforcer" for an "international crime syndicate" on his blog

  63. Efficacious grace is a teaching in some branches of Christianity, particularly Calvinism, which states that some individuals are predestined to be granted the grace of God and eternal salvation. 

  64. Culiacán is a city in Sinaloa, Mexico (map). 

  65. As described with great love and frequency by John, this song is based on an experience he had playing the game Odin Sphere, in which, due to his desire to play the game to escape pain in his own life, along with appreciation for the game's complex, novelesque plot and cutscenes, he found himself deeply empathizing with some of the dialogue's emotions. 9:30 Club, Washington DC, November 27, 2009; Letters to Santa, Chicago, December 7, 2011; Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 16, 2011; Merkin Concert Hall, New York, March 24, 2012; Barbican, London, April 2, 2012; Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 28, 2012; People's Place, Amsterdam, October 13, 2013.

    See also Thank You Mario but Our Princess Is in Another Castle, another emotional song with video game origins. 

  66. Enoch 18:14 is also part of the informal series of outtakes and informal series of demos

  67. The demo for Enoch 18:14 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  68. The Book of Enoch is not generally part of the Bible and is considered scripture only by some churches. Multiple versions and translations exist, with no clear standard to a lay person. One translation of Enoch 18:14 reads, "The angel said: 'This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven...'"

    Charles, RH (1917). The Book of Enoch. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Publishing. Archived with the Internet Archive, retrieved April 10, 2014. 

  69. As described by John, this is derived from a cutscene from the video game Odin Sphere, which follows five different characters through a great war in the fictional world of Erion. This particular line comes from a cutscene in the Pooka Prince storyline, Chapter 5, Act 6: Frontlines of the Cauldron War, in which the protagonist Prince Cornelius of Titania sees his love interest, Velvet, in a barren wasteland along with their antagonist, Velvet's grandfather, King Valentine, who has been cursed to suffer in the Netherworld after his death. King Valentine attacks Cornelius and steals a powerful ring from him:

    King Valentine: The ring has been returned to its rightful owner.
    Velvet: Grandfather, please think about this.
    King Valentine: You and your brother both escaped the curse. You can't comprehend what it's like! This pain and suffering. Neither can Odin, nor the Fairies, nor all of Titania! They must see Hell firsthand.
    Velvet: You want the world to end?
    King Valentine: Take a good look at me. All I want is oblivion. Yes, the world's demise — just like the prophecies, the lid to Hell opens. The time has now come.

    The brother mentioned is Velvet's brother, Ingway, an enemy of Cornelius. The scene ends with Cornelius fighting King Valentine and recovering the ring. 

  70. Proverbs 6:27 is also part of the informal series of outtakes and informal series of demos

  71. "Can a man embrace fire
    and his clothes not be burned?"

    Proverbs 6:27, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved April 10, 2014. 

  72. The demo for Proverbs 6:27 was released on The Life of the World in Flux

  73. Betamax was a cassette tape format in the 1970s, outcompeted and obsoleted by VHS. 

  74. Given the two lines alluding to a film, this seems to describe the 1986 Israeli action film The Delta Force, which starred Chuck Norris as an American commando attempting to rescue passengers from fictional Flight 282, captured by Lebanese terrorists.  2