Top Ten Thursday: The 10 Best Modest Mouse Songs

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Next Tuesday, March 17th,  marks the long-awaited return of Modest Mouse, who will release their first album in eight years, Strangers to Ourselves. So to mark the return of the barking Washington band, here are our 10 favorite Modest Mouse songs.

10.  “3rd Planet”

How much can you really say about “3rd Planet”?  Its only the opening track on one of the greatest albums of all time containing some light philosophy.  It may not be the best song on The Moon & Antarctica, but it certainly sets the tone.

9.  “Black Cadillacs”

I actually think “Black Cadillacs” is a little too overproduced.  But the meat and bones of the song is phenomenal.  There are just a couple cute tricks that could have been scrapped.
8.  “The World at Large”

Isaac Brock opens Good People brilliantly with pristine vocals.  Combined with the light instrumentation, the listener is immediately and warmly drawn into a very satisfying experience.  This is a perfect example of a band knowing how to set the tone.

7.  “King Rat”

Off of MM’s b-sides album, “King Rat” is mostly bluster and a shit-ton of attitude.  But it also may be my favorite opening thirty seconds of a song ever.  The trombone, one-word vocal, and groovy baseline lead into a great screamer.

6.  “Ocean Breathes Salty”

“Ocean Breathes Salty” carries just enough of the sensibilities that make Modest Mouse great and combined them with some of the characteristics that made Good News so accessible to a broader audience.  Perfect crossover song.
5.  “Cowboy Dan”

Modest Mouse likes to tell a good story.  “Cowboy Dan” is the one song where you can point to their storytelling becoming epic, complete with an abstract intermission change of pace.  Just great early MM.
4.  “Missed the Boat”

I vividly remember the first time I heard this song.  Brock’s vocals are exceptionally audible, like he wants to make sure you hear each and every word.  It is very moving, although I’m not always exactly which way to be moved.
3.  “Gravity Rides Everything”

2.  “Dark Center of the Universe”

1.  “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”

What is crazy about the top three songs on this list being off the same album (The Moon & Antarctica) is that this is not an indictment on the rest of their work.  Is there anything more beautiful than the vocals on “Gravity” melding right into each other as the song intensifies?  Or how about how the same line (“Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am And I’m really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily f**k you over”) appears eight times to lead off mini-verses in “Dark Center”, but somehow its completely surprising every time.  And then there’s the funk-screamo unholy hybrid that is “Tiny Cities”.

These songs are perfect, so there was nothing else to do than put them all at the front of the line.

Just Missed

Todd – “Spitting Venom”

Isaac Brock knows how to elevate a simple song structure into something interesting, with “Spitting Venom” being a shining example.  Of course the track devolves into mayhem eventually, which only serves to intensify the second shift in the song, and the third, and the fourth…

Wes – “The Stars are Projectors”

There are no underappreciated songs on The Moon & Antarctica, but this is a personal favorite of Wes.  The chaos of the opening of the track turning into something cohesive and beautiful is (dare I say?) almost “Mother of Pearl”-ish.  

Austin – “The Good Times are Killing Me”

I love a good singalong and the simple refrain of “Good Times” makes for perfect falsetto fodder.  Plus, I think a lot of people can relate to joyously partying to hard and sympathizing with the message here.

 

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