The Extra Lens Undercard

The Extra Lens Undercard
Since finding a home on 4AD, John Darnielle's Mountain Goats releases have slowly gone from loose collections of songbook entries to mature and conceptually rich albums. While that evolution has been a pleasure to observe, there is something truly fancy-freeing in this new collaboration with Nothing Painted Blue's Franklin Bruno. Nearly a decade separates Undercard from Martial Arts Weekend, the duo's 2002 effort on Absolutely Kosher, and the extra years of songcraft lend layers of nuance to the mix. The vintage exuberance of opener "Adultery," a song that could easily be dropped into MG's Tallahassee, is matched against the sad whimsy of "Programmed Death Cell" and its chimerical tale of lost souls in the supermarket. Likewise, "Some Other Way" manages to turn tales of attempted suicide into an improbably sunny pop song. Other standout tracks, like "How I Left the Ministry" and "Rockin' Rockin' Twilight of the Gods," take on rightwing hypocrisy and financial collapse with similarly buoyant pessimism. This is Darnielle at his acerbic best, enhanced by Bruno's uncluttered arrangements ― essential listening for fans or first-timers alike. (Merge)