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The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come (4AD) 

If you'll pardon the colloquialism, the new Mountain Goats album is super-duper good. Like, so good it makes me giggle and squirm and play it over and over again.

I would strongly encourage all of you to give it a spin, especially those of you who might have been turned off by the nasal atonality of John Darnielle's singing voice on earlier records. Most of The Life of the World to Come is so soft and lush that, rather than grating, Darnielle's everyman, non-singer's voice is utterly charming. He even sounds downright pretty on "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace."

All of this speaks to the album's greatest virtue: its intimacy. The record somehow seduces you into believing you may have the only copy of it in the world, and that nothing really exists outside of you and it. Darnielle has, overall, restrained and simplified what he does here, but without changing it. It's a distillation of his strengths.

It's impossible to single out any one or two songs as standouts because the whole thing is perfection. Keep in mind, there's a big self-conscious conceit here: Every track is written in response to Bible verse, and the song titles—"Genesis 30:3," "Isaiah 45:23," "Psalms 40:2"—are all derived from their textual referents. But it's apropos that a Mountain Goats record would interact with a literary body in such an overt way, and concern itself with epic myth-building on a very small scale.

More by Sean Bottai

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