Album Review: Modest Mouse—“Strangers To Ourselves”

By Gwen Reid

Strangers to Ourselves is the highly anticipated album from Modest Mouse, whose last release was their acclaimed album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank eight years ago. While the band continued to play live shows during the hiatus, fans patiently awaited new content. With this new release, Modest Mouse does not disappoint, presenting a dynamic and challenging album.

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Album art for Strangers to Ourselves

From the start, lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock gushes his signature raw vocals over music that changes its direction every song. With 15 tracks in total, the album explores many themes and emotions, mostly embodied by the ability of Brock’s vocals to convey a mood. Placing the melodic musings of “Coyotes” next to the chaos of “Sugar Boat” produces jarring transitions in the best possible way. Even within songs, Brock changes from distressed screeches to soft coos. From angry to reflective to sorrowful to passionate, the music flows between emotions. It’s this experimentation with different personas that create a whole expression of human experience within the album.

Overall the album creates a connection to the band’s past while exploring many new directions. Reminiscent of the old are tracks like “The Tortoise and the Tourist” and ‘”Ansel,” where dissonant singing contrasts with fierce guitar. In contrast “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996),” which is by far the most experimental track on the album, has jittery synths and lyrics about escapism. The music seems to mimic the barking usually reserved for Brock’s vocals, slashing through the typical formula of a Modest Mouse song.

This newest release from Modest Mouse contains all of the rawness and innovation that make all of their previous albums so great. Brock continues to evoke integrity in his portrayal of varying moods, allowing the band to continue experimenting with different musical styles. As a whole, the album seems to lack a cohesive theme, but the reality is that it explores the broadness and depth of human emotion through drastic changes in atmosphere. The lyrics in “Sugar Boat”: “And we will never know just where we go or where we have come from” embody this feeling of a dynamic experience. (Glacial Pace)

Listen: “Coyotes”

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