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Tag: Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse – No One’s First and You’re Next

by on Oct.10, 2009, under Good Music

Modest Mouse has come a long way without having to water down their music or message. Modest Mouse has come a long way because it’s genuinely great music. They reeled in the indie rockers early on with a handful of simply produced, thin music with heart. They slowly unfolded into dimensions of space rock and more macabre offerings as on The Moon & Antarctica. By 2004, they were able to capture a commercial audience, while still maintaining positive critical reception, with Good News for People Who Love Bad News. And then, at last, with the release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the boys hit number one on the Billboard charts. Truly a rags to riches story if ever there was one.

Their newest offering, No One’s First, and You’re Next is a collection of repolished, unreleased material from the sessions that produced those latter two, commercially strong releases. Though this disc is technically a collection of outtakes, it still feels like a whole new album. It also feels like something of a return to the wirey, gruff sound that defined everything before those commercially strong releases…with better mastering, of course.

So it’s as close to older Modest Mouse as we’ve had since newer Modest Mouse. Perhaps that’s why these tracks were kicked off the final versions of their prospective initial releases. They are not so much of an evolution of any aspect of the band’s talent. There is no major forward motion in the exploration of the sound. There is nothing that transcends the color of the last two discs. This is an acquired taste that takes several listens to fully explore and appreciate. For Modest Mouse purists, this is excellent news.

None of this is to imply that this is a formula they should always follow. Good News and We Were Dead are both fantastic releases. It’s just nice to know that, beyond their increasing grandeur, the band is still in touch with its core simplicity and frivolity. It is also still in touch with their sardonic nature. As usual, it’s a bit snide, but never tactless. It also carries a weird undertone of positivity, which is not new for Modest Mouse, and still difficult to pin down absolutely.

Generally more poetic than sentimental (or at least poetic about sentiment) Isaac Brock’s lyrics are primarily filled with subjective observation. He dives headlong into the ironies of human nature. “We all try harder as the days run out,” he reminds us on “Perpetual motion machine.” He determinedly explores the absurdity of adopting false ideals to fit in with one’s peers on the opening track, “Satellite Skin.” “Even crooks have to pay the rent,” he quips on “King Rat,” an apparent outtake from We Were Dead.

This release is a healthy one. First, it’s inexpensive, without sacrificing quality, since everything was already recorded. Additionally, it’s the kind of thing that allows the band to take a step back and press out all they have sitting around before moving on to the next step. Call it closure. From here, it’s tough to say what they will do next, but we can count on two things: 1) it will be good and 2) it will sound like Modest Mouse.

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Senryu – Dying in Fast Forward

by on Sep.12, 2009, under Good Music, mp3

teethThe new album by Senryu is technically not going to be released until the night of their show on September 18th in Knoxville, TN. You know what, though? I already have a copy, suckers. So let’s get to it…

My first impression of this disc is that it’s coming from some place very minimalist. Yet it seems to carry a rather varied array of musical moments, just not at the same time. In any case, it’s certainly the most abstract and experimental Senryu disc to date. The space between the sounds is of particular importance here. While they started moving into that area with their last release, The Guilty Party Rages On, the notion of space becomes fully realized with Dying in Fast Forward. While I am certain the band (or at least frontman, Wil Wright) was aware of this dynamic shift, I must also credit the engineers, Mike Agentis and Aaron Thompson, for their keen sense of production. It is, indeed, not just the sounds, themselves, but the sound of the sounds.

Without being a full on emulation, the whole disc smacks particularly of Modest Mouse, with some of Montreal caulked in around the perimeter. Don’t get me wrong. It is intrinsically Senryu, which is its own very distinct thing. There is homage throughout, though, intentional or not, popping up and subsiding again. This is particularly documented in the single, “Shiver and Shine,” as well as “Jericho Ruins Everything.”

The closing track, “Simulacra,” begins as a Thom Yorke inspired electro-beat song before expanding into something lighter and dirtier. You really feel it, then suddenly it is gone. Gone with it is the entire disc. Clocking in at fourteen minutes, there is the inevitable desire for more. Especially with such an abrupt, yet elevated, end. The whole things works so well as a whole that, since you can’t have anymore, the natural response seems to be to just hit play again.

It’s certainly not a superficial listen. There is a lot going on, however subtly applied. Perhaps that is the gimmick of the whole thing. It takes multiple listens to really map it out in one’s head. It’s not catchy sing-along pop. It’s art. And if there is a structure underneath it all, it’s either meticulously dictated from phrase to phrase, or it’s haphazardly flung on to the canvass. If nothing else, the ambiguity of the process makes this a deep and interesting listen.

If you’re in the Knoxville, TN area on September 18th, come check out the release show…

MP3: “Shiver and Shine (Little Red Lung Remix)” by Senryu

Click here to download the whole damned Senryu catalog.

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