Album Review: Modest Mouse’s “Strangers to Ourselves”

Alaina Galasso, Opinions Editor

Modest Mouse released their new album, titled “Strangers to Ourselves” on March 17 after an eight year hiatus between albums. Since then, the album has risen to third in the United States according to Billboard and has been generally received well by sources such as Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.

The highlights of the album definitely include the title track “Strangers to Ourselves.”  The song is simply beautiful, beginning the album with a deviation from typical Modest Mouse funk into more of a melodic, soft sound. The song is filled with lyrics and a tone that symbolizes the theme of detachment and isolation that carries throughout the rest of the album. The repetitive violin sound gives me chills in combination with a steady drum beat that soothes.

The album then smoothly transitions into “Lampshades on Fire,” which definitely is a leap from the first ballad. “Lampshades on Fire” stays true to the more typical Modest Mouse sound, pleasing both older fans and drawing in new ones. It’s extremely upbeat with a folk-feel masking the overall message of self-destruction, and whether the author is referring to an individual or the populations downfall is up to the listener.

Another highlight is “Sugar Boats,” the ninth track of the album. Although “Sugar Boats” has received generally negative reviews, I have found it to be infectious with a creepy-carnival tune that transitions into a more traditional guitar solo with interesting experimentations from horns mixed in. This song, more so the others, shows off the lead singer’s, Isaac Brock’s, vocals in a different more appealing light. He definitely lets it loose with this track, and I think the outcome was positively unique.

My personal favorite track off the album would have to be “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box.” From the start the tune is inviting, but when it hits the continuous guitar solo that’s when you get hooked. This song in particular really experiments with new sounds, including a mix of different instruments that, while it could potentially sound too messy for liking, somehow ends up cohesive and filled with an over-the-top energy. The vocals are fast-paced to match the beat, including strange inflections to create interest. Overall, every second of the six minute song is worth listening to over and over again, from the quick introduction of the rhythm to the end where each sound individually trickles down to nothing.

Overall, the album as a whole is worth giving your attention. If you listen closely there are various hidden messages in the lyrics and hidden sounds layered in underneath the more prominent ones. Long-term fans of Modest Mouse have complained that “Strangers to Ourselves” either includes too much experimentation or too little, but the central theme of mankind’s disregard for nature and certain familiar-sounding tracks are enough to please them. I think the eight years of waiting were worth it, and “Strangers to Ourselves” surpasses all expectations with the band’s refusal to stick to the same sound that gave them popularity prior and their bold (and successful) decision to explore different areas of both meaning and instrumentation.