Turning away from the self-analysis of his last few releases, musician and lyricist extraordinaire John Darnielle returns to telling other people’s stories here, shading them in a wide range of aural tonalities. The heartbreaking story of new parents in “San Bernardino” is told over unadorned, willowy cello parts and gently plucked strings, but “Lovecraft in Brooklyn,” about the famed writer’s xenophobia, seethes with emotional confusion while guitars zig and zag like a garage band trying to find its sound. Bonus track “Toolshed” may be a first-person story, one in the flow of confessionals released by Darnielle after his stepfather died. Either way, it’s bitterly heartwrenching. Collaborating once again with Peter Hughes and Franklin Bruno of Nothing Painted Blue, Jon Wurster of Superchunk, cellist Erik Friedlander, and producers John Vanderslice and Scott Solter, Darnielle has found a sound that retains the charm of his earlier, more primitive works, while allowing him to take advantage of the 4AD aesthetic that makes everything from the album packaging to the music inside shiny and beautiful.