Heretic Pride (4AD)

By The Mountain Goats

John Darnielle bounces back from a pretty boring album (2006's Get Lonely) with one of his most energetic and eclectic releases. There's even a rock song, with electric guitars and everything ("Lovecraft in Brooklyn"). Heretic Pride features the fullest band Darnielle has recruited yet for the Mountain Goats, including guitarist Alastair Galbraith, members of the Bright Mountain Choir, and chamber-jazz cellist Erik Friedlander. As immediately inviting as the disc is, though, as with all Mountain Goats releases, the lyrics are the real draw: Darnielle considers a lake monster in China, a heavy-metal T-shirt, slasher movies, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft's racism, and the death of reggae singer Prince Far I. The songs are all about far more than those subjects indicate, of course—a song about the mystery writer Sax Rohmer grows into a meditation on distance and return, and "Sept. 15, 1983," about Prince Far's murder, is really about love in a hateful world ("Try, try your whole life to be righteous and be good/Wind up on your own floor, choking on blood")