The Moon & Antarctica
With their interstellar lyrics and angular song structures, Modest Mouse tend to defy their self-deprecating band name. In truth, the trio's got some lofty ambitions, and The Moon and Antarctica indulges their grand dreams with pristine production and a vivid sonic backdrop. It also dives deeply into their geographical obsessions—always with the same subjective twists that made The Lonesome Crowded West and This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About such inspired wonders. Isaac Brock opens Moon with meditations on the universe's shape—all twisted into such a solipsistic tangle that they illuminate immediately how much these songs are about the mind as about the world. Rarely giving off the cage-jarring thickness of guitar rock, Moon's 15 tunes are shaped around vignettes of a disheveled head figuring out the rambling disconnections of postmodern society. Guitars wobble, Brock wails on vocals, and his band mates—Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green—help take each song away from any predictable formula and toward wherever they seem to want to go. This is a band as profoundly touched by suburbia as was writer Harold Brodkey. You can imagine Brock, Green, and Judy lying on wide-open lawns, philosophizing about the shape of the universe and coming up with lyric moments like this (sung to folky, spare acoustic guitar): "A wild pack of family dogs came running through the yard and as my own dog ran away I didn't say much of anything at all / A wild pack of family dogs came running through the yard as my little sister played; the dogs took her away, and I guess she was eaten up, okay." Replays of American Beauty, anyone?