Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Extra Lens: Undercard [Merge, 2010]
Twelve songs in 34 minutes by John Darnielle on "vocals, instruments" and Franklin Bruno on "instruments, vocals," and as someone who's long felt Darnielle was trying too hard, I'm so glad he's cut himself some breathing room. Ofttime Mountain Goats keyboardist Bruno deserves very nearly half the credit, less for his three-and-a-half songs (which Darnielle sings, so where are Bruno's "vocals"?) than for the keyboards enveloping "Programmed Cell Death," the piano undergirding the Randy Newman cover, and for all I know the guitar splattering "How I Left the Ministry." If the verse-chorus-verse of these gorgeously understated, quiet but hardly grooveless artsongs makes your teeth hurt, Grizzly Bear will give you something to suck on any year now. A-