I'd never heard Modern Rock Diaries before their set at Buffalo Lounge, so I didn't know what to expect. They were listed as indie/ambient on the press materials, but that name. But, happily, the name is a complete misnomer: this band has about as much to do with Nickelback as Modest Mouse does.
The band, instead, truly does skew to the ambient, atmospheric side of indie rock. At their most upbeat and indignant, the vocalist can import an Isaac Brock-ian edge to the tunes via his delivery. At their most atmospheric, however, Other Lives is a better touchstone; the keys/violin/bass/drums configuration allowed for towering crescendoes.
In between, however, was "September," which saw one member pull double duty on violin and keytar. (Yes, they totally went there.) It's a unique mix of latent aggression (anti-corporatist, anti-political lyrics about being stuck in a cubicle), dancy rhythms, pulsing speed, and haunting atmosphere. It was easily the high point of the set, a song that I'll remember after this evening (and hopefully after the festival). Their widely varied set was still coherent and consistently entertaining; their new EP is definitely on my must-hear list.