The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
With drums mixed high and more songs about monsters and girls, this represents an advance from the terrifically calibrated, awfully dull Get Lonely. The metaphors aren't getting any less ornate either. Darnielle's very human voice renders them crystal clear, though -- when he says his heart's an autoclave, I'm convinced he knows exactly what this means, without getting smug about it.
The Magnetic Fields - Distortion
I've never given Stephen Merritt his due because so many of my colleagues have. As my patience for Tin Pan Alley moon-june precision ebbs, I value performers able to put over those verities more than a guy content to imitate a morose Phil Oakey. Of course these songs are clever and occasionally moving; the triumph here is strictly formalist, with the guitar feedback a fitting substitute for the malnourished murk of the earlier recordings. Merritt's been listening to Psychocandy, the press release says. Imagine the Brothers Reid with brains and a sultry ironic sense, and limited just as much by vocal and conceptual limitations (the Brothers Reid sound like exactly the kind of raw trade on whom Merritt would spend songwriting capital). Just because I like the best songs here as much as their 69 Love Songs cousins doesn't mean he won't fuck the next one up; even Phil Oakey understood that concepts only go so far to mitigating the effect/affect of tuneless vocals and moon-june rhymes. Still, I'll allow Merritt his triumph. "California Girls" might actually be more moving if he'd sung it instead of a girl; someone with such a high opinion of himself needs more Jimmy Somerville stridency in his life.