March Music Madness
Thus far, 2015 has witnessed the resurrection of many beloved artists – Kendrick Lamar, of Montreal, Mumford & Sons, and Drake, among many others. March in particular has been a fruitful month in terms of musical variety; the two most notable releases have come from indie-rockers Modest Mouse, and guitar maestro Mark Knopfler.
Modest Mouse, Strangers to Ourselves
Modest Mouse’s last studio release was in 2007, with the knockout favorite “Dashboard.” Their highly anticipated new album, entitled Strangers to Ourselves, is a smorgasbord of musical diversity that is sure to excite old fans and attract new ones.
The album-opener and title track is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s 1984 record The Final Cut. Frontman Isaac Brock’s voice here could be mistaken for that of Floyd’s Roger Waters; “Strangers to Ourselves” is quite possibly the album’s most beautiful, placid moment.
The album’s lead single “Lampshades on Fire” is a punchy, conventional Modest Mouse tune, flavored with a slightly Caribbean reggae feel. More reggae influence pops up in “Ansel,” whose instrumental sections sound like they belong on a U2 record.
The drum box pattern in “Pistol” is lifted – whether intentionally or not – from Genesis’s 1983 hit “Mama.” This dark art-rock number is the record’s most experimental tune, and it in fact resembles yet another Genesis song: “Who Dunnit?” from the album Abacab.
Influence from REM can be heard in “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box,” which serves as the album’s longest song. The music video for follow-up track “Coyotes” was released earlier this year; the song provides a moving break from the band’s characteristic grittiness.
“Sugar Boats” sounds like the kind of alternative-polka you’d hear at a carnival you never want to visit. It is juxtaposed with the melancholic “Wicked Campaign,” which features prominent synthesizers and presents a distantly sad feel. In addition, its crescendo is one of the record’s most climactic points.
“Of Course We Know” is a wonderfully melodic closing track, which evolves from tender to tempestuous. Its lush instrumentation and evocative vocals create an emotional atmosphere that asserts the record’s dominance as one of 2015’s best releases.
Mark Knopfler, Tracker
The former Dire Straits frontman’s eighth studio solo album was released in mid-March. With its mature compositions and moving musical sequences, Tracker is both genuine and endearing.
The opening track “Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes” really belongs on Knopfler’s 2002 album The Ragpicker’s Dream. This folky reminiscence about his youth sets the jangly mountain-music vibe for the rest of the album.
English poet Basil Bunting is the subject of follow-up tune “Basil,” a rustic lullaby replete with banjos and the lovely vocals of Ruth Moody. Moody, a member of The Wailin’ Jennys folk outfit, is featured more prominently in the ballad “Wherever I Go,” Tracker’s poignant final track.
Tracker picks up speed with tracks like “Skydiver” and “Broken Bones,” which showcase Knopfler’s more uptempo, rock-oriented old habits. With these songs, Knopfler employs various guitar effects and catchy hooks that are sure to get listeners’ foots a-tapping.
Several of Tracker’s tunes resemble earlier Dire Straits cuts. “Beryl” is reminiscent of the band’s 1978 chart-topper “Sultans of Swing,” with its upbeat tempo, vocal harmonies, and prominent electric guitar. “Silver Eagle” evokes the smooth melancholy of Making Movies’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
Knopfler’s overarching talent is his ability to tell an entire story just by playing his guitar. Tracker provides fans with authentic storytelling and mellow musical arrangements.