Modest Mouse rose to prominence when they topped the Billboard Chart with their 2007 album We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, and, after a challenging decade, they returned this summer with their defiant new album, The Golden Casket.
It’s no understatement to say that they operate in their own timezone, they don’t plan more than a cigarette break ahead, and have taken their career one day at a time. Since their breakthrough, Modest Mouse have, at times, seemed even to squander the glimmer of opportunity that they had carved out for themselves. However, The Golden Casket sees them make an album full of unapologetically anthemic songs made for arenas and show they’ve finally grown into their skin.
Singer Isaac Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green remain the only constants in the line-up, and, between them, they’ve seen eight members either be pushed – or jump – from Good Ship Modest Mouse while they clung to the railings.
Continuing with our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Far Out Magazine has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists and hear how music has helped them during their darker times and day-to-day lives.
The organisation, with the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. Now lockdown measures have eased, that doesn’t mean that impact of the last eighteen months has ended, and CALM still needs as much help as possible to carry on with its excellent work.
We at Far Out believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite song and provides respite from a chaotic world, or, conversely, it might be the fanatic conversation you have with friends about which guitarist was the greatest. Music, it’s safe to say, has always allowed us to connect with one another and ourselves.
In support of CALM, we’re asking a selection of our favourite people to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone they met and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.
Brock’s choice of albums is an assortment of records that all arrived in his life at poignant times and helped when he needed it most. The Modest Mouse singer also slightly bent the rules for his final pick, and you can be the judge on whether it should be permitted.
Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock’s nine favourite records
Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
Pixies’ 1989 masterpiece, Doolittle, is rightly regarded as one of the finest sophomore albums of all time, and Brock has nothing but superlatives to say about the groundbreaking effort.
“It’s got everything,” Brock explains over Zoom. “Atat the point my life when I found that record, I think it was Middle School, and eighth grade, it had everything I wanted. It’s hypnotic, it’s fucking weird, and I can read into the lyrics in so many different ways, and there are endless possibilities.”
Brock continued: “It went from being pretty to being fucking maniacal, but even when Frank Black is screaming, I don’t feel like he’s angry. It’s just crazy, and I like that. I never even thought about music production until I listened to that thing about 40,000 times.”
Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
Talking Heads’ album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, sounded lightyears ahead of its time in 1978, and even now, the record still resonates like a missile sent down from outer space to save music.
“Around that same period, our house got flooded,” Brock recollects. “My sister and mom moved into the trailer across the street, but I just decided to stay living in the flooded house. There used to be this deal where you could get 12 cassettes for one cent, and if you’re a grown-up, you’re obligated to buy like X amount of tapes, but I was in seventh grade. I did it multiple times. I got all these tapes for fucking one cent because said you can’t be in contract with a kid,” he proudly remembers.
“One of those tapes was More Songs About Buildings and Food,” the singer adds. “I remember the place got cold a lot, and I’d just fucking stand in the shower, and play it on this boombox, and just stand there in the flooded house listening to it over and over again in the hot water.”
Bedhead – What Fun Life Was
Brock’s next album comes from the obscure Texan indie band, Bedhead, and their 1994 debut, What Fun Life Was. The group would record a further three records before disbanding in 1998, and its members went on to form The New Year.
“If I’m gonna be honest, there’s songs on that which drive me fucking nuts like the first part of it sounds so mopey, and cough syrupy in a way,” Brock shudders. “It’s funny that it’s on my list, but so much of that record, I love.”
Brock then explains how he was given the tape by a friend who ran a skate zine, and although he never got round to writing a review for the record, he fell completely in love with What Fun Life Was.
“I thought there were so many more instruments happening than actually were because of reverb which I didn’t understand,” he admits. “I just thought it was the most beautiful record, it wasn’t overwrought, and it was beautiful.”
Mimicking Birds – Mimicking Birds (2010)
Portland indie band, Mimicking Birds are a band that is close to Brock’s heart. The group are signed to his own label Glacial Pace Recordings, the singer produced this record at his home studio, and the group toured with Modest Mouse throughout 2009.
“It was a headache,” Brock said about making the album. “I started out as a producer on the album, and then I ended up frustrated because the guy who I was recording, he knew what he wanted but wasn’t good at talking about it.
“That’s beside the point,” Brock says after getting waylayed. “I like that record, and lyrically it’s one of the prettiest things I’ve ever heard. It’s deep, and I think he’s probably one of the finest lyricists I’ve ever fucking heard.”
The Drones – Feelin’ Kinda Free (2016)
Australian experimental indie band The Drones called it a day in 2016 and finished on a high with their sixth album, Feelin’ Kinda Free. Although, like the Bedhead album, Brock has mixed thoughts about it, despite picking it.
“And at first, it’s really hard to,” he explains, “The beginning of the record is abrasive, confident, and whatnot. But it’s got one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard on it. Here’s one thing, I don’t like half his record. I wish that every record I put on your list that every song is a no brainer, but I think I like five of the songs,” he says apologetically.
“I like them so much that they could actually show up to my house and just crap on me,” the singer absurdly professes. “I’ve never actually heard anyone do as good a job covering as much distance of what modern politics and the terror that awaits us in a way that doesn’t sound like political singing,” Brock profoundly adds.
Fugazi – Repeater (1990)
Post-hardcore legends, Fugazi, are the next pick from Brock, and surprisingly, he actually likes every song on Repeater. Their 1990 debut helped span a whole new movement and is pioneering in the truest sense of the word.
“There’s just nothing wrong with this record,” Brock notes. “I mean, in order to talk about the record, you kind of had to live through the time. Meaning got the record, gone down to the shows, and seen these dudes doing it as good or better than the record, which is already as good as you thought it could get.
“No one had any fucking pedals,” Brock says in awe. “It had this aggressive dub thing to it in the bass. It was clean, and it was fucking mean.”
The Chieftains – The Year of the French (1983)
This Irish folk album by The Chieftains is undoubtedly the most left-field selection on the list (so far), but it is a record that Brock cherishes for personal reasons and reminds him of his childhood.
“It was one that my parents listened to when I was a kid,” Brock said. “Then I ended up being like, ‘Oh, I miss hearing this thing around’. So I got my own copy of it, and I like The Chieftains and that kind of music.
“This particular soundtrack, The Year Of The French, does a lot of interesting stuff for me. It was my wake up record, and there’s a lot of droning and then getting to the point.”
Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)
Krautrock legends, Can are Brock’s next favourite with their 1972 breakthrough album, Ege Bamyasi. Previously artists including Thurston Moore, Geoff Barrow, and Steven Malkmus have all talked up the influence of this album, and Brock is another who remains mesmerised by its brilliance.
“When I got this, it wasn’t like anything I was listening to, and a guy who worked at the record store suggested it,” the Modest Mouse singer states. “I was like, ‘What do I like?’ He’s like, ‘You like this’, and I took it home. But I also didn’t know what to make of it. It’s strange, pretty in a way that I wasn’t used to. It gave me a feeling that still, to this day, I can’t quite reference which mood it’s covering. There’s a kind of lost in the fog vibe going on.”
Every Other Band I’ve Ever Listened To and Enjoyed – Greatest Hits (1975-Present)
This selection is a slight bending of the rules from Brock, as it’s technically not an album, but I do admire the tenacity of his brazen choice. “Every Other Band I’ve Listened To and Enjoyed are fucking great,” Brock jokingly elaborates.
Brock then says that the facetious album will include “probably a minimum of 1800 bands” and around “200,000” songs on the album in total, which gives you a glimpse into how significant music is in the singer’s life. From the days of getting twelve cassettes for a cent to selling out Madison Square Garden, Brock’s love of music has remained the one constant.
Check out the playlist compiling all of Brock’s selections below. The latter isn’t available on Spotify for obvious reasons, and The Chieftains’ Year Of The French is also not available on the streaming platform.