Although they've maintained a small but devoted following in indie circles for more than a decade and a half, Portland-based alternative outfit Modest Mouse were first held up as a cause célèbre by the UK press in 2007, with the release of their fifth album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Never mind the fact that it reached No 1 in America – it was the induction of guest guitarist Johnny Marr into the band which saw Modest Mouse and their catalogue welcomed into the British rock canon.
You don't necessarily need to be a good singer, just one who has got something worth singing about, be it stylistically, lyrically, or melodically. The vocalist would need to be someone who understands controlled disorder. Deadpan but melodic. The Pastels sounded like Stephen wrote great melodies but then was too bored to sing them dead on. I've always appreciated his delivery and his songwriting.
Were it possible to make a guitar effect that brings to mind Pacific mist cascading on to a beach of stoned Californian slackers, anyone could sound like Best Coast. But as it is the LA three-piece fronted by 22-year old Bethany Cosentino are peerless in the field of vibrant, scuzzy Americana, showcasing a lo-fi charm that has propelled them, appropriately, into the affections of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore among many others.
Alongside his day job in Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore is something of an underground pop-culture oracle: he runs a record label, Ecstatic Peace. He collects long-forgotten literary journals. He writes a monthly music column for 'Arthur' magazine (arthurmag.com) and authors books on musical subcultures (grunge, no wave, mix tapes). Since February he has taken to the web to pursue his myriad interests with a blog, flowersand cream.blogspot.com. Here he writes about culture from the fringes: dispatches about underground poets and experimental musicians; snippets of his own poetry; details on upcoming projects including a record made with Kim Gordon and Yoko Ono; random pop-culture snapshots – a recent posting was a cut-out of a 1969 review of the Stooges by Jim Morrison's wife, Patricia Kennealy Morrison.
You really have to hand it to Sonic Youth: album number 15, with the band's mainstays all in their fifties really is some time for a band to hit their peak.
Singer and guitarist, Sonic Youth, 55
The disciple of 'Dangerous Writing', Chuck Palahniuk, reveals his unusual creative process, and the one place that he won't go in his notoriously bad-taste fiction
Their latest album might be called Lucky but Nada Surf's 15-year career has been anything but. Even their name causes misconceptions: it's so redolent of Californian sunshine that at least one rock encyclopaedia has listed them as natives of Los Angeles – yet they hail from Brooklyn.