Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #25 Modest Mouse


The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#25 Modest Mouse

Isaac Brock has the trailer park savant vibe down. He sounds like someone who is more intelligent than he maybe should be, like the guy who works at the local, run-down gas station and quotes Bukowski. This enables Brock to write about spirituality, life, death, and the afterlife but come off as searching and contemplative, not preachy or annoyingly earnest.

Modest Mouse's early music was equally as capacious as Brock’s lyrical themes. The band’s sound was limited by the standard drum guitar bass setup, but each member’s creativity within their instrument was not restricted at all. The band went from long-winded guitar freakouts to brooding rockers to lively jam sessions to plaintive ballads with ease, and the increased budgets for every following album let them incorporate more instruments and textures that could match their ideas. The scratchy, jerky, no-sustain sound on the first couple albums gave way to a more varied and polished one on The Moon and Antarctica and onwards, netting the band many new fans but without sacrificing any of the character and charisma that we loved them for.

Modest Mouse’s entry into public consciousness via “Float On,” the (still a bit surreal) recruitment of Johnny Marr, and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’s #1 debut on the Billboard 200 make it easy to forget that the band used to be in the same league as Pavement, Built To Spill, and Sebadoh – 1990s indie heroes. Because those critical darlings are now either broken up or not as active, we can step back assess their influence and impact more easily than with Modest Mouse. But those who are used to angular guitar rock of the yelpy type that is so ubiquitous now have Modest Mouse to thank, although none of the followers have yet to match the band’s intelligence and direction. And no matter how much bigger Modest Mouse will get, we can rest assured they’ll be laughing at the stars while their feet cling tight to the ground.

- Kevin Na

Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.

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