Monday, August 4, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest part 3 - down to 25 songs

This is the third part of a series intended to rank my favorite songs by Modest Mouse. Links to the other two installments can be found at the bottom of this page. By the end of this post, we'll be down to 25 songs. At that point, I'll start going into more detail about why they were chosen, and also why they were eventually eliminated. I'll also link the Top 25 to videos so you can better understand what I mean, and perhaps discover songs that are new to you if you aren't already an avid fan of the band.

Each round of cuts has proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. You can read my rationale in the first part of this series. For the purposes of this round, I listed the remaining songs by album or EP in a spreadsheet (yeah, I know that's both funny and sad at the same time). I figured that it's almost impossible to hold 39 songs in my head at once, but I can establish what the worst remaining songs are on each album and eliminate my least favorite as I go. That way I'm only choosing between six or seven instead of the entire list. I know you needed to know that.

As a huge fan of the band, every surviving song is a favorite at this point. I'm continually reminded of the quality and strength in depth of Modest Mouse's impressive catalog.

If you read part 2, you'll know that I eliminated songs by each release in turn. I'll stick with that format for now. I quickly picked out 12 tracks that I know are safe for this round, leaving 27 on the bubble. I have to lose 14 of those 27. I won't reveal which 12 were automatically safe as they will likely end up being the Top 12 overall.

Two are gone from Building Nothing Out of Something. The first cut is Never Ending Math Equation. The style of the vocals adds a lot to the song, especially the way Brock sings "that never even ever really even ends in the end." The lyrics touch on our entire existence and the musical delivery suits the song well. Interstate 8 is also gone. The swirling guitar and the overall structure work well, but not well enough to make the Top 25.

The one song we lose from Good News for People Who Love Bad News is Float On. Yeah, I know everyone who is even slightly into Modest Mouse loves that song, but the structure is a bit too mainstream for me. It lacks the quirky quality of some of my absolute favorites.

The Lonesome Crowded West is just about my favorite Modest Mouse album, so it pains me to eliminate three songs from it this round. Truckers Atlas is the longest song from the band, and develops into a real jam. I especially like the drumming, but overall, the second half does go on a bit too long. It's great when you're driving, but there are many better songs from the band. Lounge (Closing Time) opens with an irresistible guitar segment, with Brock's vocals intertwined in the mix. It has plenty of great moments, but is a bit muddled overall and I can just about bear to cut it. Convenient Parking instantly creates a mood with its monotonous swirling opening, and it's easy to shout along to. I've occasionally had the song stuck in my head all day. That said, it does tend to become repetitive overall.

The biggest casualty this round is The Moon & Antarctica, which loses four excellent songs. Paper Thin Walls is another song which hits its stride immediately, and the vocals assault you with a lot of information in the first minute. If it has a fault, it's that the second half of the song is almost identical to the first half. A Different City is another unfortunate casualty this round. The structure works really well, with guitar, bass, vocals and drums all meshing together. It has a couple of great guitar breaks and is only cut because of the sheer quality of the Top 25. Gravity Rides Everything continues the space theme which is present on most of the tracks. Brock's vocals are particularly clear and restrained, and it's a beautiful contemplative song. I'm still cutting it though! Life Like Weeds is another excellent song, and I love the opening line..."and in this life like weeds, you're just a rock to me." It works better as part of a whole than as an individual track, but it's almost faultless otherwise.

On to This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and two more songs are eliminated. Custom Concern is laid back, slow, and wonderful. Overall, it's just a little bit too one-paced to advance to the next round. The other casualty from the band's debut is Novocain Stain. The first half is slow, reflective, and haunting. There's already enough for it to be a good song, but it picks up tempo and becomes something even better. Like many songs on the album, it has a raw quality which appeals to me. The guitar seems effortless, but you can feel that the band are pulling out all the stops.

The final two cuts before we are down to the Top 25 come from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The first is Fly Trapped in a Jar, which contains some of Brock's best vocals. The layered sound and soaring guitars make it one of the top tracks on the album, but it's not quite good enough to make the cut. The final song to be eliminated is Parting of the Sensory, which is something of an epic. I'm running out of superlatives. I love Brock's calm vocals at the start, and the vast subject matter. This song contemplates our existence and the end of it. If I listened to it on the right day, it might make my Top 5.

So we are down to 25 songs, and it was difficult enough getting this far. This is starting to become as impossible as choosing between your children, assuming you have 25 children and adore them all. Have you noticed the titles of the albums and EPs? I can't think of any band that comes up with better titles.

The next installment will attempt to go even deeper, with full lyrics and a video link for each song. These are the remaining songs which make up my Top 25 (in alphabetical order, as always):

3rd Planet
Black Cadillacs
Bury Me with It
Cowboy Dan
Dark Center of the Universe
Doin' the Cockroach
Edit the Sad Parts
Exit Does Not Exist
Head South
Heart Cooks Brain
I Came as a Rat
Ocean Breathes Salty
Spitting Venom
Steam Engenius
Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
Teeth Like God's Shoeshine
The Stars are Projectors
The Whale Song
The World at Large
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Trailer Trash

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 1
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 2
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 4
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 5  

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 6   
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 7
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8  


  1. I'm familiar with the name, but I've never actively listened to the albums by Modest Mouse. This is a nice introduction to their music! Look forward to the post with video links.

    1. Thanks Chris. Hopefully these posts will make more sense when you know a bit about the band. I'll probably do five posts with five songs in each as I start to count down. I'll try to do the first post tonight. Thanks for reading.