Singer/songwriter John Darnielle and prolific company keep folk-rock relevant on the new Heretic Pride, their 16th album in almost as many years. Progressing with analog polish and played almost entirely on acoustic instruments, the stripped-down arrangements feature violin and organ as accompaniment to an unusually bouncy rhythm guitar. Darnielle’s trademark nasal (almost nerdily so) voice, commonly crooning on more downtrodden themes of addiction, dependency, and loss, finds uplift here and optimism, as on album-opener “Sax Rohmer #1″ when he sings “I am coming home to you/if it’s the last thing that I do.” From there the album is couched in none-too-oblique Christian terminology, especially on songs like “New Zion,” “Sept. 15, 1983,” and the title track, albeit from a viewpoint sometimes finding itself at odds with capital-r Religion. There are also some blatant H.P. Lovecraft references, even a song titled “Lovecraft in Brooklyn,” for whatever that’s worth. (4AD) –Erik Bryan