The Mountain Goats, The Coroner's Gambit (Absolutely Kosher): Another page ripped out of the boom-box folk diary of Iowa's John Darnielle. His seventh album, the first in three years, this seems, judging from the eulogy inside, to have been motivated by the suicide of a friend named Rozz (this can't be Rozz Williams of Christian Death fame, though, can it?). In apparent response to the loss, and armed most of the time with an acoustic guitar as his only weapon, Darnielle takes on Death in a battle match generating a lot of hellfire. Rivers of blood rush through the streets of Rome, jewel-encrusted chariots swing low and insurance fraud is committed while our plain-voiced warrior attempts to hold mortality at bay for just one moment longer. Even the sweet-sounding "I'm coming home" song has the ominous title "Elijah." The album's concept puts apparent mean-spirited relationship songs in a more metaphorical context. At least that's what I tell myself when I'm trying to be sympathetic. — Kevin John

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