The Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride 4/5 stars “Heretic Pride” is the sixteenth full-length record released by American singer-songwriter John Darnielle. Darnielle began performing under the name The Mountain Goats in 1991, recording a number of lo-fi albums and earning a reputation for his remarkably poetic lyrics. In 2004, Darnielle began working with producer John Vanderslice (known for Spoon’s “Gimme Fiction”) and the ensuing release of “We Shall All Be Healed” marked a change in recording style for the band: his songs became more autobiographical in nature and the albums themselves began to take on a cohesiveness of their own. “The Sunset Tree” (2005) deals with his childhood and takes aim directly at his abusive stepfather. For me, these recent albums represent a stark change in Darnielle’s compositional style as well. In both “The Sunset Tree” and “Get Lonely” (2006) there is a new attention to detail, and though the lyrics are still the driving force in all of his songs, these two albums reflect Darnielle’s experimentation with sound and instrumentation. And the band’s latest release is no exception. “Heretic Pride” is, at once, angrier and more pointed than previous albums, with rhythmically angular songs and more concise choruses. Whereas “Get Lonely” was pretty much a collection of slow songs, this disc has a great variety of valleys and peaks. We can almost hear Darnielle clawing at the car window in “So Desperate,” but in “Sept. 15, 1983,” he is set free from the world, with the ethereal whistle of electronic organ floating above the perfectly simple but upbeat guitar chords. “San Bernadino” is a departure from Darnielle’s traditional guitar-bass-voice combination, with its strangely poignant lyrics crying out over a choir of cellos. “New Zion” is experimental too, using electric guitar, cello and organ instrumentals. The focus in this album is not just on lyrics anymore, and Darnielle is beginning to write more complex and touching instrumental arrangements. All of these developments make “Heretic Pride” an exciting release and a strong addition to The Mountain Goats’ already impressive portfolio.