Undercard - The Extra Lens
Metascore
77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. If the verse-chorus-verse of these gorgeously understated, quiet but hardly grooveless artsongs makes your teeth hurt, Grizzly Bear will give you something to suck on any year now.
  2. Dec 14, 2010
    90
    Not only does Undercard not disappoint--there are more than a couple earworms here and there--but it's brilliant and fresh from two musicians who aren't exactly freshmen to the scene.
  3. Dec 14, 2010
    83
    Undercard peddles in a more mature, assured--though no less skeletal-kind of songcraft.
  4. Dec 14, 2010
    79
    Even if there's no transcendent statement to be found, we're still left with these guys sketching out their own little Richard Brautigan short stories, rendering entire lives in quick, mysterious, devastating little strokes. If these guys wanted to make another one of these before another eight years elapse, I wouldn't be mad.
  5. Dec 14, 2010
    74
    Franklin Bruno and the Extra Lens provide a welcome respite from the false but persistent mythology of Darnielle as a solitary genius; Undercard gives his songwriting some breathing room and a refreshing dose of collaboration.
  6. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    The spontaneous vibe seems fitting, with Darnielle's ordinary-guy vocals, embellished by Bruno's subtle guitars and keyboards, giving their observant tales of sexual misconduct ("How I Left the Ministry") and weary struggle ("Cruiserweights") the punch of vivid short stories.
  7. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    Undercard is a solid listen all the way through, and proof that Darnielle and Bruno have a chemistry that can last through 10 years of dormancy, and that Darnielle can still surprise with a song, even when we think we know what to expect from him.
  8. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    As Darnielle's first release on his new label, Merge, opening a new chapter in his career, Undercard may not be a total knockout, but it's an eminently worthy diversion from (or preface to) the main event.
  9. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    While much of contemporary music fixates on flash and bang, it's refreshing to hear emphasis on what the singer is saying. With a lyricist this gifted, that more than suffices.
  10. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    By the end of Undercard, one realizes how integral Franklin Bruno has been to the songs' successes. Not all of the compositions here reach their potential, but Bruno almost consistently nails his efforts to create the right mood for Darnielle's storytelling.
  11. Dec 14, 2010
    70
    It's often Darnielle's immaculate attention to detail that understandably garners the most praise, yet here it's Bruno's complementary productions that deflates any stuffiness and affords these tracks a chance to breathe, making Undercard a welcome addition to both men's illustrious catalogues. [Fall 2010, p.60]
  12. Jan 7, 2011
    66
    The pair balances out the other's weakness, bringing you finely crafted storytelling set to diverse musical influences rooted in good ol' folksy rock.
  13. Dec 14, 2010
    60
    Undercard tastes like diluted Darnielle. Nonetheless, there's enough gold buried here to recommend it, even if it's not strictly canonical by my personal reckoning.
  14. Dec 14, 2010
    60
    What is peculiar about Undercard is the frequency with which Bruno flops back and forth between these two roles. The result is an inconsistent album that is sophomoric at turns and sublime at others.

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