Modest Mouse ends an eight year hiatus with the release of “Strangers to Ourselves.” The album, while not a major departure from the band’s past work, is an enigmatic bundle of fine art packed into 15 tracks running just shy of an hour.
The album’s namesake, “Strangers to Ourselves,” kicks off the set. The song’s intricate percussive arrangement is evident of the growing musical sophistication of the artists and their commitment to the creation of a genuine product free of gimmicks and overproduction. In contrast to “Stranger’s” subtlety, “Lampshades on Fire” features lead singer Isaac Brock’s trademark aggressive vocal style – keeping the listener captivated on and on their toes.
The explicit track, “Shit in Your Cut,” sounds like something taken out of a Tarantino film. The spacey electronics and old western undertones are an experience to indulge in. “Pistol” yet again changes the game in the best way possible – think Foster the People meets Lady Gaga. “Ansel” steers the energy back down to a melancholy, yet oddly feel good, tone unlike anything before or yet to come.
“The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” is a brilliant title for a brilliant song. The lyrics are almost unintelligible; more of a spoken sing-song style than melodic crooning, but despite that the song resonates in the body and just feels great. “Coyote” is a more holistic, earthy song that shows off the band’s acoustic talents. While not the strongest track of the album, it is respectable nonetheless.
“Pups to Dust,” like “Coyote,” is not the album’s best track, but it really demonstrates the group’s ability to approach songs from countless angles and put a unique twist on almost anything
The next track, “Sugar Boots,” is a twisted mix of scary clown music and psychedelic rock. Another bit of eccentricity that just adds to the fun and unending originality of the EP.
“Wicked Campaign” sounds like something off a Killer’s album. The Brandon Flowers-esque vocals are yet another flavor to this ever fluid album. “Be Brave” is a moving and inspiring anthem. The intense repetition – “Be brave! Be brave!” – sounds like something a marine might say to himself in the heat of battle.
“God is an Indian and You’re an Asshole” is short, acoustic, campfire appropriate and just so genuine – nothing but music and musicians. “The Tortoise and Tourist” takes on a more classic rock feel and laments about something everyone can relate too – the need to get away once in a while.
“The Best Room” is classic Modest Mouse. A laid back rock groove with Brock’s raw vocals helming the ensemble. The final track, “Of Course We Know,” feels like an ending – a fitting one to a great album. The grand instrumentation and simple chord structure is engulfing. The subtle melodic, melancholic undertones draw in the listener and feel like a sad goodbye to a close friend. The song beautifully brings a fantastic album to a heartfelt close.
“Strangers to Ourselves” isn’t anything drastically new for Modest Mouse, but it is the perfection of a style that works for the band and that fans have come to love.
RECOMMENDED: The fluid genius of “Strangers” is well worth the eight year wait.