Some pieces of music pull one’s heartstrings in spite of any critical examination or intellectual weighing of their quality. For me, blobs of gushy musical intoxication ranging from the score of Sonic the Hedgehog’s Starlight Zone to Enya’s “On Your Shore” still haunt me well into my young adulthood with their frustratingly magnetic, anesthetic charms. Contemporary bands like Sigur Rós, Spiritualized, and the recent Flaming Lips have dealt with this all-defeating beauty as well, smothering any potential for reasoned dissection in a towering inferno of narcotic prettiness. Their music pursues (and often achieves) the feat of being totally elating regardless of whether you think it’s any good. Seattle band Hypatia Lake wield these potentially dark and numbing forces, weaving them into pop music of deep narrative conception and glittery stylistic conceit.

Their new sophomore album …And We Shall Call Him Joseph, like their 2003 debut, Your Universe, Your Mind, deals entirely with the characters and events of a fictional town, also called Hypatia Lake. While the first album gave a broad overview of the town’s history, the new record chronicles the life of a single man, from birth to revolutionary adulthood. While this essential fact of Hypatia Lake the band—that they are exclusively the musical orators of a storybook town—could be viewed as the ultimate in concept-band ridiculousness, it also lends them a unique and liberated air. Further, the purely fantastical nature of the band’s content allows them to push the unreasonable-beauty vibes nearly into musical theater territory.

The record’s first proper song succinctly sets the bar, layering a druggy, molten arrangement and swooning-at-being-alive vocals into a triumphant climax that would make OK Computer’s most operatic moments blush. Elsewhere on the record all sorts of late-20th-century musical bombast is referenced and brought to task. Alternately wailing/warming guitars, church organs, delay-drenched whispers, gently tugging piano lines, and reverbed-to-the-gills drums jockey for dramatic dominance in the album’s mountain range of emotional peaks.

A difficult-to-ignore reference point is the recently world-beating Arcade Fire’s Funeral, though one imagines that the bulk of …AWSCHJ was probably composed/recorded before that record’s ascension. Like Funeral, Hypatia Lake’s new album pulses with the emotional gravity of an ever-present underpinning of fable and manages to make potentially mawkish melodrama feel thoroughly genuine and natural. They achieve both a brain-conquering wave of pure prettiness and meticulously constructed, novelistic content.