The Mountain Goats are the rare band that was already wonderful, and became only more so with the help of a bigger label, a permanent band and a glossier sheen. The accessibility of All Eternals Deck only enhances John Darnielle's storytelling, letting the lyrics breathe through frantic acoustic guitars and pounding rhythm.

Which is not to say the album is monolithic; there are 13 different songs with 13 different stories conveyed with 13 musical ideas. 'Estate Sale Sign' wouldn't be out of place on a Sunny Day Real Estate record (and would probably have the old emo-punk energy live), while 'Damn These Vampires' pairs the vulnerability of REM with the musicality of 1970's AM radio.

This is an album of love, of today's love, told in the language of time and space. There's as much enjoyment to be had from reading Darnielle's words on the page as there are in listening to the music, sometimes even more so: 'Look hard at what you see and then remember you and me, and let the truth spring free, like a jack-in-the-box, like a hundred thousand cuckoo clocks, from the Oregon corners to the Iowa corn, to the rooms with the heat lamps where the snake get born.'

But nothing could prepare the listener for twin masterpieces 'Age of Kings' and 'High Hawk Season', two songs that seem to sum up the entirety of human existence until today while still sounding vaguely like it comes from the not-too-distant future. Strings and choirs provide texture and cinema, while the vocal melody comes from somewhere distant yet vaguely familiar. It's what nostalgia sounds like. After all, nostalgia is not memory, it is the illusion of memory, it's what we think we remember, not what actually happened. It's the 'gold light, shining on so many things, in the age of kings.'

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