By Mike Frash //
The Pacific Northwest’s premier indie act hasn’t put out a new material for eight years, but Modest Mouse is set for a thundering return on March 17th with their sixth studio album, Stranger to Ourselves.
The marketing campaign behind the new material has been substantial, which isn’t too surprising when you look at their discography. The first five full length albums from the group averaged 15 songs each — and wouldn’t you know the new long player has 15 tracks.
And in the lead up to the album launch, we’ve already been treated with five new songs. They’re all solidly in the range from good to amazing. Modest Mouse has shared a variety of different sounding tracks — all within the group’s established wheelhouse — hinting at a depth of musical exploration that we expect from Isaac Brock and company. The lyrics seem to coalesce about doomsday prophesies that focus on our own undoing (read: climate change) over zombies or aliens.
Based on these singles, Stranger to Ourselves could be a top-shelf album in 2015 — but that might all change once the full album is released. Let’s break down the first third of the new Modest Mouse album in the order new tracks have debuted.
1. “Lampshades n Fire”
Released: December 15th, 2014
First Reaction: It’s as anthemic as Modest Mouse gets, Brock’s voice sounds the same as before and it looks like they’re brining the rage. The song contains that out-of-the-side-of-your-mouth spiteful, punk edge yet is packaged nicely for the masses.
Most Memorable Lyrics: Spend some time to float in outer space / Find another planet, make the same mistakes/ Our mind’s all shattered when we climb aboard / Hopin’ for the scientists to find another door
Rank: 4/5 BAMS
Takeaway: If you haven’t heard this song on your local alt-rock station or channel yet, just wait.
Released: January 19th, 2015
First Reaction: It’s a ballad, and it contrasts “Lampshades On Fire.” Sounds like a bit of a filler song.
Most Memorable Lyrics: And we say: “We’re in love, with everything.” / And we lie, we love to lie.
Rank: 3/5 BAMS
Takeaway: It’s a long-form fib, getting at the underbelly of some collective facade of happiness.
3. “The Best Room”
Released: February 2nd, 2015
First Reaction: Modest Mouse is back!!! The song structure is sophisticated, but it’s easy to relate to and it has a healthy dose of crazy.
Most Memorable Lyrics: These Western concerns are all I ever really learned to be concerned with / But don’t you, don’t you know it’s hard / Feeling tired every time that you try?
Rank: 5/5 BAMS
Takeaway: The album’s penultimate song is about Isaac Brock’s UFO encounter, it took 20 years to make, and it might be one of the best songs of the year by anyone. It gets better each time I listen.
4. “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”
Released: February 16th, 2015
First Reaction: This is my new jam and should be the second radio single for the album.
Most Memorable Lyrics: Our predecessor left this box / And somethings clawing around / I think it really wants out
Rank: 4.5/5 BAMS
Takeaway: The convergence of driving instrumentals (including that super catchy guitar lick) and the grim lyrical outlook of everything going in the wrong direction juxtapose each other, yet hint at some kind of cause and effect.
5. “Of Course We Know”
Released: March 3rd, 2015
First Reaction: The way this lyrically-indecisive cut seamlessly progresses into a floaty, pleasurable wall of sound makes it masterful stuff.
Most Memorable Lyrics: The streets are just blankets and we sleep on their silky corpse / Covered up by them, why would we ever want to wake up?
Rank: 4/5 BAMS
Takeaway: Giving some epic, post-rock bliss to end the album is a solid way to to wrap up what might end up being an epic collection of songs.
Modest Mouse’s Stranger to Ourselves will be out March 17th via Epic.
01. Strangers to Ourselves
02. Lampshades on Fire
03. Shit in Your Cut
04. Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)
06. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box
08. Pups to Dust
09. Sugar Boats
10. Wicked Campaign
11. Be Brave
12. God Is an Indian and You’re an Asshole
13. The Tortoise and the Tourist
14. The Best Room
15. Of Course We Know