There's an argument to be made that morbid songwriting passed Mark Eitzel by years ago. In the wake of followers like Mark Kozelek and Elliott Smith, who sprang up during American Music Club's early-'90s heyday, it's no longer revolutionary to craft moody yet tense tunes that simultaneously subvert rock muscularity and folk wussiness. Since 2004's comeback album, Love Songs For Patriots, AMC leader Eitzel has had to rely on his songs and persona alone—which makes The Golden Age even more stunning. His trademark gloom still dominates, but his ability to bend glacial chords around pure poetry remains vital. In fact, it's stronger than ever: For every thunderstorm like "The Decibels And The Little Pills," The Golden Age sports a wry, soulful, immaculately cut pop gem such as "All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco." "A city built by fire trucks / and skeletons who grin and grin," Eitzel croons with delicious malice on the latter—and it's hard not to picture him as one of those grinning skeletons himself.