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The Mountain Goats 

Heretic Pride (4AD)

Two years ago, indie-rockers the Mountain Goats released the somber Get Lonely, which most fans dismissed as — to put it mildly — "difficult." Heretic Pride falls back on a happier sound. Frontman John Darnielle's voice is once again an exuberant bleat, after barely rising above a wounded, wobbling falsetto on Get Lonely. He's never sounded more eager to please, dispensing with the album-long narrative arcs that typified the last few Mountain Goats records and cutting loose with compelling single-song vignettes. They're framed by swooping strings, a bevy of duet partners, and incandescent tunes like "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident" and "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature." Most endearing is Darnielle's sudden willingness to take on arena-size dynamics. They make Heretic Pride hard to resist. But why bother? The pounding "Michael Myers Resplendent" and an awesomely cranked tribute to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft will suck you right in.

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