Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

A Music Review: Modest Mouse, Strangers To Ourselves

04.21.15

Abbey Vermeal


I should preface this week’s music review by saying that Modest Mouse is one of my favorite bands of all time. Up until a few weeks ago, I swore by their album “Good News For People Who Love Bad News”. I recommended it to everyone I had music conversations with, without fail, and listened to it on a regular basis. And as much as I will always adore that album, it’s safe to say that I now have a new favorite.


“Strangers to Ourselves” was originally arranged to be released on March 3rd, but the release date was pushed back to March 17th.  It’s the band’s sixth album, and has had a very good response so far since its release.


For those who aren’t familiar, Modest Mouse is a very unique band, most fitting in the genre of alternative rock, known for their lead singer’s rough, raspy and unusual voice, their use of a wide range of instruments, and their most popular song, “Float On.” While I love that song, it doesn’t really do justice to the full range of sound that you get as a listener on any given album that the band releases. “This Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing to Think About,” the band’s first album released in 1996, brought in a lot of listeners that dearly loved the rough, unpolished, and sometimes even distant sound of the band. Isaac Brock’s voice itself always sounds like he’s been smoking for 20 hours before singing, and many fans really loved the unproduced and gritty nature.


The more recent albums, however, have started to sound a little more put together. The last album the band released, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,” sounded much clearer than anything coming before it. This album took the biggest step toward sounding clear and produced. It’s nice to see the band constantly improving on themselves, and increasing their production quality. Their general genre and feeling has remained the same, staying true to what brought in fans to begin with, but there are noticeable improvements in the music and vocal technique as well as the sound quality. The last album they released was in 2007, making this the biggest gap in album releases in their music career, but the wait and the time they took to create and produce “Strangers to Ourselves” definitely paid off.


This album in particular has a really good blend of fast and slow songs, intense ones and ones that are more relaxed. The opposition can be seen between two of my personal favorites from the album: “Lampshades on Fire” (which heavily reminded me of “Ocean Breathes Salty”), which is upbeat and a bit angry, complete with a ferocious and an odd percussion section that is a staple to Modest Mouse, and “Coyotes,” a much more relaxed take on the band’s typical style. While they’ve released some really beautiful slower songs before, I think that this is the gentlest and most simplistic song that I’ve ever heard from them. Having a song like that on the album creates such a strong connection between it and the listener. Also, the music video is adorable, so watch it if you like animals.


One of my other favorites off the album is “The Ground Walks With Time in a Box”. It’s the typical weirdness that is this crazy band, but taken up a notch, and I adore it. This may be a good time to emphasize again that this music is strange. Delightful, thought-provoking, wonderful, and strange.  The album finishes with “Of Course We Know,” which is the most perfect song to end an album that I think I’ve ever heard. It is the best combination of sentimental and new, melancholy and hopeful, and relaxed and active. It ties all the different ways that Modest Mouse presents themselves into one song, and does it extremely well.


I’ve always said that Modest Mouse releases the kinds of albums that you have to listen to all in one sitting: just lay down and play the whole album through beginning to end. This album is no exception. If you’re looking for an experience wrapped up in an album and a beautiful range of emotion presented very uniquely, there is no band that I can recommend more highly than Modest Mouse.

This album in particular has a really good blend of fast and slow songs, intense ones and ones that are more relaxed. The opposition can be seen between two of my personal favorites from the album: “Lampshades on Fire” (which heavily reminded me of “Ocean Breathes Salty”), which is upbeat and a bit angry, complete with a ferocious and an odd percussion section that is a staple to Modest Mouse, and “Coyotes,” a much more relaxed take on the band’s typical style. While they’ve released some really beautiful slower songs before, I think that this is the gentlest and most simplistic song that I’ve ever heard from them. Having a song like that on the album creates such a strong connection between it and the listener. Also, the music video is adorable, so watch it if you like animals.


One of my other favorites off the album is “The Ground Walks With Time in a Box”. It’s the typical weirdness that is this crazy band, but taken up a notch, and I adore it. This may be a good time to emphasize again that this music is strange. Delightful, thought-provoking, wonderful, and strange.  The album finishes with “Of Course We Know,” which is the most perfect song to end an album that I think I’ve ever heard. It is the best combination of sentimental and new, melancholy and hopeful, and relaxed and active. It ties all the different ways that Modest Mouse presents themselves into one song, and does it extremely well.


I’ve always said that Modest Mouse releases the kinds of albums that you have to listen to all in one sitting: just lay down and play the whole album through beginning to end. This album is no exception. If you’re looking for an experience wrapped up in an album and a beautiful range of emotion presented very uniquely, there is no band that I can recommend more highly than Modest Mouse.