Public radio’s big on “driveway moments.” If you tune in during one of our pledge drives, you’ll probably hear us talk about the power of audio and how it keeps you glued to your seat, even if that means staying in your car 33 minutes after you’ve already parked. Since this phrase usually relates more to storytelling (see: This American Life and Radiolab) and less to music (see: World Café), and since I’m big on magical music moments, I think it’s time we incorporate another phrase into our audio-loving lexicon: “car rock moments.”
For those still wrapping your heads around this “car rock” notion, let me give you a personal example. The first time I heard Modest Mouse’s new single “Lampshades on Fire,” I immediately started dancing. Now, I don’t mean “dancing” as in a few shoulder shimmies and a light head bob; I mean “dancing” as in severe arm-flailing, neck-whipping, eyes-closed-to-the-music choreography – all of which happened in my car at a Charleston stoplight. It’s that kind of moment, a small stretch of time that lets you shed your self-consciousness and rock out to your heart’s desire, that’s what I would call a “car rock moment.” Lucky for us, Modest Mouse’s seventh studio release, Strangers to Ourselves, is chock full of such moments.
If you know of Modest Mouse’s singles (like 2004’s “Float On” and 2007’s “Dashboard”) but have yet to pick up one of their records, Strangers to Ourselves is a good place to start. It’s unabashed indie-dance rock that pieces together gravelly vocals, bombastic bass lines and lyrics that bounce between existential crises and tiptoeing coyotes. Sure, the band doesn’t experiment much with its tried-and-true rock formula, and the record definitely swerves at a couple points (“Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)” is the power-pop answer to a question never asked), but Strangers to Ourselves is still a dynamic, smile-inducing treat.
If you’re looking for an excuse to let down your hair and have a one-person dance party on your ride home from work, make sure to spin “Lampshades on Fire,” “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” “Sugar Boats” and “The Best Room.”