I love albums. You know, actual albums that aren't just a collection of songs. No, not concept albums. Just cohesive, whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts albums. Albums that take you places.
As far as those type of albums go, The Moon & Antarctica is perfect in every sense of the word. Each song builds off the one before it, and continues from the first song until the last. It even climaxes in the middle of the album, but doesn't disappoint through the end, either. I couldn't be more sincere when I say this is a genuine, masterful piece of art.
Isaac has always had a knack for writing good songs, but here it's focused in crystalline fashion. Before this album, the band was just jamming out tunes (and dang good ones, mind you), but here there was some serious work involved, I'm certain. I can just imagine the band in deep concentration and focus until 4 in the morning getting things right, adjusting things, perfecting things. Whether or not they didn't isn't important. What is important is that the final product makes it sound like they did.
Perhaps the moment where you realize this album is different is when "The Cold Part" begins. It's floating, but stark and chilly atmosphere is something you never heard from these guys before. It's the beginning of an absolutely epic middle third of the album, the part that glues the rest of the album together. It climaxes with "The Stars are Projectors," by far my favorite part of the album and by far the best song they ever wrote. I won't ruin it for you if you haven't heard it, just know that you need to give it a listen if you haven't before. It's a far cry from the "Float On" Modest Mouse you may be familiar with.
Things get much less atmospheric and abstract with "Wild Pack of Family Dogs," a simple diddy of acoustic guitar and accordian with Isaac musing over it all. It has that charm and simplicity Isaac pulls off so well. And it doesn't feel out of place at all after such a dramatic center part of the album. Just one example of how perfectly this album was constructed.
The last third of the album carries the album home without a single misstep. "Lives" is the most poignant of them all, with introspective lyrics about how it's difficult to remember that even if we could change ourselves to be anything, we'd probably be disappointed, so just take advantage of the life you have. The bridge gives me chills every time. "Life Like Weeds" is equally as good and leads to the outstanding and furious album closer, "What People are Made of."
I have literally only a handful of albums that I would take over The Moon & Antarctica. Not even OK Computer or Loveless top it. It shows a maturity of songwriting and album composition that's extremely rare and difficult to pull off so masterfully. I can't recommend it enough.