Two cult figures make their best album yet

Once upon a time, in California’s Inland Empire, two singer-songwriters formed a side project called the Extra Glenns. Since then, John Darnielle has become something of a cult figure: the driving force in a band called the Mountain Goats, and the author of a well-received rock ’n’ roll novel called Master of Reality. Meanwhile, Franklin Bruno has recorded a few albums of his own, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy and published an equally well-regarded book about Elvis Costello. From time to time they’ve rejoined forces, dropping a few letters from their name and reemerging as the Extra Lens. Their new album, Undercard, features the same off-the-cuff brilliance that made their early, low-fi releases so much fun.

Darnielle sings and plays acoustic guitar. Bruno (who once wrote the couplet “Then I determined/ Your French kiss was German”) plays electric guitar and piano, and sings the occasional harmony. Both men can be wordy, but then, their best songs—you can download our favorite, “How I Left the Ministry,” for free by clicking on the link below—are really short stories: the characters and scenes stay with you long after the last chord’s been struck.

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