By Taylor Ford
Strangers to Ourselves is Modest Mouse’s sixth full studio album, and its first in almost eight years, since the 2007 release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The band has been working on the record for five years, and the amount of time and effort that they put into the record is staggering.
As the band’s frontman and songwriter, Isaac Brock is largely the driving creative force of Modest Mouse. Strangers to Ourselves is a project that Brock was deeply invested in. Along with writing 14 of the 15 songs on the album, he took the time to record commentary for each track, short explanations of what they’re about and his inspiration for writing them. These short tracks were released as a companion to the album.
Many of the songs on the album deal directly with Brock’s personal life. He tells the heart-wrenching story of the last time he saw his brother before his death, and all the things he wished he could’ve done differently during this event. In an interview for Buzzfeed with Jonathan Valania, when asked about the process of producing the album, Brock said: “I’ve killed myself making this record. Fuckin’ literally thought I was going to die. I wrote a will on an airplane, and I was like, I know I’m dying.”
While there are a few tracks that stand out, this record feels like it was meant to be listened to straight through rather than just a collection of songs. The experience of listening to the album is greatly enhanced with the addition of the commentary for each track.
While the content of the songs varies greatly, the album explores one larger theme: It seeks to explore (and, to a degree, critique) the way in which we as a society relate to nature, each other and the outside world. On the commentary for the track “Coyotes,” Brock says simply “One of my biggest wishes is that we could figure out a way to live with the natural world instead of on top of it.” The album expresses Brock’s regrets related to the way in which our culture has developed, and he pulls no punches in this mission.