Album Review: Modest Mouse, ‘Strangers To Ourselves’

Written by Chris Panico

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It’s been eight years, and frankly I didn’t think that they were coming back. However, after a long hiatus, 2015 marks the return of indie-rock legends Modest Mouse with their sixth release, Strangers to Ourselves.

The band couldn’t have made a better comeback either.

Strangers is an album that is simply screaming with creativity from track to track. Throughout the record the band is constantly fusing new and surprising elements with their signature guitar-rock sound. The opening title track itself is centered around a beautiful, hypnotic string piece, which is complemented by the subtle guitar work underneath it. Isaac Brock’s restrained voice give the song a safe feeling to it, easing the audience into the rest of the album.

Photo Credit: Ben Moon
Photo Credit: Ben Moon

While the new record may start off by cradling the listener into it, the band doesn’t hold back when it’s time to get to it. The raw energy of their live performance is amazingly captured in the recordings and makes for a truly gratifying listen. Very few artists can make that energy come through in the studio, and Modest Mouse’s ability to do that is a testament to how well polished the band is.

Modest Mouse also employs a variety of sparse electronics through the record, notably using a number of filtering techniques and reversed sounds. “Wicked Campaign” is a great example of the bands mastery of synthetic instruments and texture, a common theme on Strangers.

Strangers to Ourselves isn’t entirely hinged on the bands weird, ballsy sonic palette though. Great lyrics are sprinkled through the album in the slightly odd and slightly dark way we’d expect them to be. Their single “Coyotes” has some of the best pieces in its first verse:

“Coyotes tiptoe in the snow after dark
At home with the ghosts in the national parks
Mankinds behaving like some serial killers
Giant old monsters afraid of the sharks”

Any time a band comes off of a long drought it can be tough to live up to the expectation of fans. Some want the old band, some want the new band, some want an entirely different band. Whatever anyone expected from Modest Mouse, I can scarcely imagine that many are disappointed in Strangers to Ourselves. I know it’s early still, but I’d say it’s already in the running for best album this year.

‘Strangers To Ourselves’ Rating: 8.5/10

Pick up Modest Mouse’s Strangers to Ourselves on iTunes and Amazon.


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