Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #23 Modest Mouse - Moon and Antarctica


Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#23 Modest Mouse - Moon and Antarctica

While discussing The Moon & Antarctica, Modest Mouse’s major label debut for Epic, my friend Ryan called it the album on which the band “switched it up.” At the time, I concurred, because he uses a lot of hand motions when he talks and I got distracted by his dandruff-riddled dreadlocks. But after some deliberation, it just doesn’t ring as true as I initially thought.

It’s true that the album is different from its predecessors. There are added instruments and studio tricks, and the rawkin, schizophrenic vibe that The Lonesome Crowded West had is largely absent in favor of more focused, mid-tempo fare. You’re not going to find any songs in the vein of “Shit Luck” or “Doin The Cockroach” here. Which isn’t to say the album is boring or monotonous, it’s just more thematically coherent and by extension, cogent. Sonically, The Moon & Antarctica is aptly titled. A shimmering echo coats the whole album, and the instruments sound like they’re reverberating throughout a vast landscape, be it space or Antarctica.

But these new sounds and textures coexist with the songs in a way that makes it seem like they were natural extensions of Modest Mouse’s sound, not a conscious effort on the band’s part to “switch it up.” Adding to their musical vocabulary, the band used what they had in their newly acquired major label disposal to more effectively convey Isaac Brock’s musings on death and the afterlife. And despite the studio tomfoolery, the songs remain typical Modest Mouse – smart, loose, catchy, and oddly profound. Dripping hearts made of wood and mothers crying blood dust don’t immediately assign familiar, specific feelings within us, but the lines and images stick.

Still three years from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which now sounds like what Modest Mouse’s big league debut should’ve sounded like, The Moon & Antarctica must not have been what the execs at Epic were expecting when it was released. A moody masterpiece that took us into Isaac Brock’s obsessive and scattered mind and let us examine his fears and ambitions, it probably wasn’t the album fans were expecting either. Which is part of the reason why The Moon & Antarctica is considered by many to be one of Modest Mouse’s – and the decade’s – best albums.

- Kevin Na

Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.

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