He has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail, because John Darnielle is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life.
But many have noted that John Darnielle seems often very happy, and his demeanor on stage is almost exclusively unhaunted, ecstatic.
Anyone who reads his Twitter feed knows he takes great delight in his delights: vegan cooking, fat babies, hockey, the beautiful alchemy of Chemex coffee, Anonymous 4, playing music for people, loaning out socks when the time comes, basements.
These are the consolations; and if some of his songs suggest that there are real hells on earth, other songs remind that the heavens are equally close at hand.
(Sometimes they are even the same songs.)