Up to this point, the Washington-state indie-rock trio Modest Mouse has been captivated by the minutiae of daily life. Now, as the title of their fourth album suggests, they've gone macrocosmic. Moving beyond the enclosed landscapes of 1997's The Lonesome Crowded West, the band and producer Brian Deck boldly roam from the homegrown country licks of "Wild Packs of Family Dogs" to the otherworldly strings of "The Cold Part" on their new album. What is lost in warm immediacy is gained in eclectic cool: On "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," the band fractures its funky beat into abstract percussive art. Singer-guitarist Isaac Brock still sounds as earthy as dirt behind his veil of vocal effects when he observes, "The world is my ashtray/Our hearts pump dust/And our hair's all gray." With The Moon and Antarctica — a place where "the universe is shaped exactly like the Earth" ("3rd Planet") — Modest Mouse show they can find microscopic humanity even within the most expansive spaces.
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