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Best Indie Rock Albums

EW Picks the Best 25 Indie Rock Albums — Do You Agree?

Ah, top 25 lists. I know some people hate to list music in this way because it's so hard (I know this first hand) to compare albums and favorite songs much less pick favorites. A wise first step for any list maker is to narrow the field by genre, which is what EW recently did to choose the best indie albums from each year, from 1984 up until the present.

They also gave themselves some rules for which albums are eligible, including defining "independent" as "the bands had to have been signed to an independent label for the given album" (so, Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirt doesn't count because that album was released on Geffen Records) and they have to be bands, not individual artists, which is why you won't see Elliott Smith or Sufjan Stevens in there.

Here are the picks for the past five years:

  • 2008: Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 2007: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • 2006: The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
  • 2005: Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
  • 2004: Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • I have a nit to pick with their 2006 choice and probably would have chosen Band of Horses, Everything All the Time for the best of that year. What do you think? Anyone missing? To see the rest of the list,


    • 2003: The White Stripes, Elephant
    • 2002: Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights
    • 2001: The Shins, Oh, Inverted World
    • 2000: Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
    • 1999: Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock
    • 1998: Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
    • 1997: Modest Mouse, Lonesome Crowded West
    • 1996: Belle and Sebastian, If You're Feeling Sinister
    • 1995: Archers of Loaf, Vee Vee
    • 1994: Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand
    • 1993: Built to Spill, Ultimate Alternative Wavers
    • 1992: Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted
    • 1991: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
    • 1990: Fugazi, Repeater
    • 1989: The Pixies, Doolittle
    • 1988: Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
    • 1987: Dinosour Jr., You're Living All Over Me
    • 1986: R.E.M., Life's Rich Pageant
    • 1985: The Smiths, Meat Is Murder
    • 1984: The Replacements, Let It Be


Join The Conversation
hellfire hellfire 8 years
I think they forgot about ZenMesa, Its heavy and dark, but you have to listen to it. You dont notice at first but its textured art, it doesnt weight you dont but it does demand your concentration (along with an hour or so on a couch in a dark room where all you can see is the stereo equalizer lights, LOL...
Yv Yv 9 years
I have all these records on my shelf but Dinosour Jr., and including criteria (indie label, band) I agree with everyting except for: 1986: The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead 2001: Avalanches - Since I Left You 2003: Microphones - Mount Eerie 2004: Of Montreal - Satanic Panic In The Attic 2005: We Versus The Shark - Ruin Everything! AND The National - Alligator 2006: Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye 2007: Thief - Sunchild 2008: i don't know yet but definitely not Radiohead [i LOVE them but In Rainbows was a disappointment]
kgtg1 kgtg1 9 years
These are all pretty good, but not really indie in my opinion. I think that most of these artists are pretty mainstream, even if their records were released on independent labels. I know the exact definition of "indie" music is that it is released on an independent label, so I guess they do count by default.
colormesticky colormesticky 9 years
No Fratellis? For shame. That whole album is fun.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
WhiplashGirlchild - oops, it was indeed. Good memory, I think Band of Horses has been playing on my iPod a lot these days!
emalove emalove 9 years
The Pixies "Doolittle" album is my FAVORITE...I could listen to that everyday for the rest of my life. I also love those Sonic Youth and R.E.M.albums. Used to listen to them all the time in high school. And I just bought the Radiohead "In Rainbows" album the other day at Target.
BeautyXRush BeautyXRush 9 years
I don't really consider The White Stripes, or Bright eyes to be indie bands. The other ones I agree with.
Stacey-Cakes Stacey-Cakes 9 years
I love that Neutral Milk Hotel CD too...i listen to it a lot at work (it calms any stress i have). Also congrats to R.E.M., the Pixies, and Built to Spill, some of my all-time favs.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 9 years
I just counted and I have 21 of these 25 albums. I've never been a Fugazi fan but my boyfriend will be thrilled that they're on this list, they're his all-time favorite.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 9 years
Yay to Neutral Milk Hotel. That album is AMAZING. Buzz, I can't believe that I remember this, but didn't you post that "Boys and Girls in America" was your #1 of 2006? I specifically remember reading that because I agreed.
haleylovesjohn haleylovesjohn 9 years
to buzzsugar: I know. very odd.
haleylovesjohn haleylovesjohn 9 years
Oh... I missed the band part. Shows my attention span. to ellipsery, thank you. I would be as well. I went to the highly anticipate Nashville concert. haha. she puts on a hell of a concert. I have 5 words. Samson brought me to tears.
JaeB JaeB 9 years
I think this list is pretty spot on. Quite refreshing compared to some others I've seen. Oh and yes yes yes to Bright Eyes, I.M.O.
bonbonagogo bonbonagogo 9 years
I am glad they are giving credit to Life's Rich Pagent, which is my absolute favorite REM album and one of my favorite albums of all time. I think it's extremely underrated, so rock on, EW!
skydart skydart 9 years
What about EELS?
laneylaney laneylaney 9 years
I say no to Bright Eyes. Yes to Regina or Rilo Kiley if they had made it. . .
radarkitty radarkitty 9 years
I am WAY out of this loop!
ellipsery ellipsery 9 years
haleylovesjohn, if EW did put out one of these lists with solo artists instead, I would be offended if they skipped out on Regina Spektor. She is truly amazing. I've had the honor of seeing her live twice, and she took my breath away each time!
filmgirl81 filmgirl81 9 years
OK, regina spektor is a solo artist. So she couldn't be on there. Solo indie artists is a separate list altogether. And this list is just cashing in on the youth indie music culture that is so hot right now. Nothing new really
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
haleylovesjohn - I like Regina Spektor too but they limited their list to just bands. But I'm confused why Bright Eyes makes it then because I think of him as just a singer, not a band.
grrlyrebel grrlyrebel 9 years
I totally agree with most of these, but I agree that the Hold Steady isn't worthy. Nor is Bright Eyes in my opinion. But otherwise pretty much right on.
haleylovesjohn haleylovesjohn 9 years
I honestly think Regina Spektor should be on here. She is one of the best artists out today. And ever. She is the best live performer I've ever seen. Live performances are up in the likes of Robert Plant.
siren6 siren6 9 years
Doolittle and Loveless are on there - I got no complaints!
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