Songs for Pierre Chuvin is a cassette tape by the Mountain Goats. It was announced via Instagram on 1 April 2020, with the tracklist being shared the following day. The cassette is a collection of home recordings that John Darnielle made on his Panasonic boombox in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The release’s name is a tribute to the French historian Pierre Chuvin. In particular, his book A Chronicle of the Last Pagans (titled Chronique des derniers païens in the original French) inspired John Darnielle in his songwriting, noticeably so in “Until Olympius Returns,” for the announcement of which he tweeted an excerpt from the book. The release’s name also hearkens back to the “songs for …” format, seen on 1992’s Songs for Petronius (referring to a Roman courtier) and 1995’s Songs for Peter Hughes (referring to a long-time member of the Mountain Goats).
The impact of Christianity on practicing pagans after it became the state religion of the Roman Empire is a central theme for the cassette. Antiquity is a recurring theme for the band, primarily in the form of references to Greek mythology, as can be heard on songs such as “Deinanara Crush,” “Yam, the King of Crops”, and “Against Agamemnon.”
Boombox-recorded releases are an iconic medium for the Mountain Goats, tracing back to their first releases in 1991, Taboo VI: The Homecoming. This method was used many times, up until All Hail West Texas, released in 2002. The listener’s experience with boombox recordings is mentioned on Songs for Pierre Chuvin’s closing track, “Exegetic Chains.”
With the release of the cassette, John remarked that its creation was intentionally in line with early Mountain Goats releases, being most closely alined with the 1993 tape Transmissions to Horace. The tape’s ten songs were written in order and recorded immediately after conception:
I WROTE A SONG EVERY DAY for the next ten days while reading A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, starting with “Aulon Raid” and working in exactly the style I used to work in: read until something jumps out at me; play guitar and ad-lib out loud until I get a phrase I like; write the lyrics, get the song together, record immediately.