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Mogwai 

Mr. Beast (Matador)

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Back in Mogwai's early days, an album titled Mr. Beast would have matched the band's category-five noise hurricanes perfectly. But as the Scotsmen refined their sound over the next decade, moments of levity and clarity -- airy synths, strings, eerie silences -- made the band's emotional maelstrom more compelling.

In fact, Mr. Beast feels like a sequel to 2003's sublime Happy Music for Happy People: The latter's peaks and valleys presaged the end of the world, whereas Beast soundtracks the lonely fallout. A repeating piano melody coils itself around ominous guitars that slowly build from silence to beehive-angry quivers on "Auto Rock"; "Acid Food" asks "What happened after the storm?" atop a Vicodin-induced twang haze; and the almost baroque "Team Handed" sighs with resignation and more desolate ivory tickling.

Even moments of pummeling noise (like the near pop song "Travel Is Dangerous") attack like a smart-bomb homing in on its target. And that's the beauty of the near-flawless Beast: Its turmoil and sadness intertwine in such a meticulous, human way, the reactions it provokes are that much more intense -- whether it's silent tears or a poignant sense of peace.

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