Top 100 Indie Songs of All Time

by oz on February 14, 2007

After a challenge from a reader (thanks Tacos) and few weeks of deliberation, we have finally arrived at our top 100 indie songs of all time. We ranked in chronological order because ranking best to worst would have involved a group of people hurting one another.

To the best of our knowledge, all the songs below were originally released on an indie label. We tried to limit each artist to one song for variety. Obviously certain bellwether bands had two songs included because we just couldn’t decide.

There are some songs you expect to see and some you don’t. Most people haven’t heard of Golden Bear, but we can’t stop listening to it. Hopefully in a 10 years it won’t seem as out of place on the same list as Pavement.

We had input from many people and would like to offer thanks to Moish, Drinking Buddy, Nick, Pete, Kevin, Doctor A and Jim for their suggestions. I’m sure we still missed several great tracks and will hear about it shortly.

1. Live Wire – Motley Crue – Too Fast For Love – Leathur Records – 1981
2. Lake of Fire – Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II – SST – 1983
3. Sitting Still – REM – Murmur – I.R.S. Records – 1983
4. Spirit Walker – The Cult – Dreamtime – Beggars Banquet – 1984
5. I Will Dare – The Replacements – Let It Be – Restless Records – 1984
6. Corona – The Minutemen – Double Nickles On The Dime – SST – 1984
7. I Apologize – Husker Du – New Day Rising – SST – 1985
8. Just Like Honey – The Jesus and Mary Chain – Pyschocandy – Blanco y Negro – 1985
9. Monkey Gone To Heaven – Pixies – Doolittle – 4ad – 1988
10. Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles – Sub Pop – 1988
11. All Your Lies – Soundgarden – Ultramega OK – SST – 1988
12. Teenage Riot – Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation – SST – 1988
13. Freak Scene – Dinsosaur Jr. – Bug – SST – 1988
14. Express Yourself – N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton – Rutless Records – 1988
15. I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses – Silvertone – 1989
16. About A Girl – Nirvana – Bleach – SubPop – 1989
17. Where Is My Mind – Pixies – SurferRosa – 4ad – 1989
18. Waiting Room – Fugazi – 13 Songs – Dischord – 1989
19. Whiskey Bottle – Uncle Tupelo – No Depression – Rockville Records – 1990
20. Did I Tell You – Yo La Tengo – Fakebook – Bar None – 1990
21. Slack Motherfucker – Superchunk – Superchunk – Merge Records – 1990
22. Everything Flows – Teenage Fanclub – A Catholic Education – Matador – 1990
23. Mouth Breather – The Jesus Lizard – Goat – Touch and Go – 1991
24. Summer Babe (Winter Version) – Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted – Matador Records – 1992
25. Sodajerk – Buffalo Tom – Big Red Letter Day – Beggars Banquet – 1993
26. I Am A Scientist – Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand – Scat Records – 1994
27. Skull – Sebadoah – Bakesale – Sub Pop – 1994
28. Cut Your Hair – Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain – Matador Records -1994
29. I’ll Be Coming Around – The Bottle Rockets – The Brooklyn Side – East Side Digital – 1994
30. Drank Like A River – Whiskeytown – Faithless Street – Mood Food – 1995
31. Have You Forgotten – Red House Painters – Songs for a Blue Guitar – Supreme Recordings – 1996
32. The Distance – Cake – Fashion Nugget – Capricorn Records – 1996
33. Chan Chan – Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club – Nonesuch Records – 1997
34. Victoria – Old 97′s – Wreck Your Life – Bloodshot Records – 1997
35. Me and The Major – Belle And Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister – Matador – 1997
36. Between The Bars – Elliott Smith – Either/Or – Kill Rock Stars – 1997
37. Holland 1945 – Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – Merge Records – 1998
38. Score From Augusta – Beulah – When Your Heartstrings Break – Sugar Free Records -1999
39. Ohio – Damien Jurado – Rehearsals For Departure – Sub Pop – 1999
40. To Be Young – Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker – Bloodshot Records – 2000
41. Later Days – The Mother Hips – Later Days – Mother Hips Records – 2000
42. You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun – Sleater-Kinney – All Hands On The Bad One – Kill Rock Stars – 2000
43. Lines in the Suit – Spoon – Girls Can Tell – Merge – 2000
44. Lowdown – My Morning Jacket – At Dawn – Darla Records – 2001
45. New Slang – The Shins – Oh Inverted World – SubPop – 2001
46. Blacking Out The Friction – Death Cab For Cutie – The Photo Album – Barsuk Records – 2001
47. Let There Be Rock – Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera – New West Records – 2001
48. Castanets – Alejandro Escovedo – A Man Under The Influence – Blooshot Records – 2001
49. Feed Kill Chain – Jay Farrar – Sebastopol – Artemis – 2001
50. Yardwork In November – The Actual Tigers – Gravelled & Green – Nettwerk – 2001
51. Jesus, etc. – Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Nonesuch Records – 2002
52. Fell In Love With A Girl – The White Stripes – White Blood Cells – V2 – 2002
53. Talk To Me Dance With Me – Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown – Sub Pop – 2002
54. Start The Party – The Dirtbombs – Dangerous Magical Noise – In The Red Records – 2003
55. Outfit – Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day – New West Records – 2003
56. Quattro (World Drifts In) – Calexico – Feast of Wire – Quarterstick Records – 2003
57. Stupid – The Long Winters – When I Pretend To Fall – Barsuk Records – 2003
58. Set You Free – The Black Keys – Thickfreakness – Fat Possum – 2003
59. Flashes & Cables – Centro-Matic – Love You Just The Same – Misra – 2003
60. Ha Ha – Mates of State – Team Boo – Polyvinyl Records – 2003
61. Free – Cat Power – You Are Free – Matador – 2003
62. Save It For A Rainy Day – The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music – Lost Highway – 2003
63. Counting Down The Hours - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Shake the Streets – Lookout – 2004
64. Me & Jiggs – Josh Ritter – The Golden Age of Radio – Signature Sounds – 2004
65. Neighborhood #3 - Arcade Fire – Funeral – Merge – 2004
66. How Junior Got His Head Pin Out – Mofro – Blackwater – Swampland – 2004
67. Evil – Interpol – Antics – Matador Records – 2004
68. Each Coming Night – Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days – Sub Pop – 2004
69. Nights Like These – Lucero – Tennessee – Madjack Records – 2004
70. Runnin – Heartless Bastards – Stairs and Elevators – Fat Possum – 2004
71. 99 Problems – DJ Danger Mouse – The Grey Album – Shaolin Records – 2004
72. We Are Nowhere And Its Now – Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake Its Morning- Saddle Creek – 2005
73. Druganaut – Black Mountain – Druganaut – Jagjaguwar- 2005
74. He Lays In The Reins – Calexico/Iron & Wine – In The Reins – Overcoat Recordings – 2005
75. The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – 2005
76. The Engine Driver – The Decemberists – Picaresque – Kill Rock Stars – 2005
77. Stevie Nix – The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday – French Kiss Records – 2005
78. The Dark Don’t Hide It – Magnolia Electric Co. – Secretly Canadian – 2005
79. Halloween – matt pond PA – Several Arrows Later – Polyvinyl – 2005
80. Secret Meeting – The National – Alligator – Beggars Banquet – 2005
81. The Bleeding Heart Show – New Pornogrpahers – Twin Cinema – Matador – 2005
82. For Real - Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy – Jagjaguwar – 2005
83. Lion’s Teeth – The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree – 2005
84. Come On! Feel The Illinoise! – Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise – Asthmatic Kitty – 2005
85. Hell is Chrome – Wilco – A Ghost Is Born – Nonesuch Records – 2005
86. The Denial Twist – The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan – V2 – 2005
87. Love In Fear – The Constantines – Tournament of Hearts – Sub Pop – 2005
88. Helicopter – Bloc Party – Silent Alarm – Vice Recordings – 2005
89. Cherry Cola – Eagles of Death Metal – Death By Sexy – Downtown – 2006
90. Hold On, Hold On – Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood – Anti, Inc. -2006
91. Wolf Like Me – TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain – Touch and Go – 2006
92. Returning To The Fold – The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine – Sub Pop – 2006
93. In and Out of Love – Trainwreck Riders – Lonely Road Revival – Alive Records – 2006
94. Roscoe – Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther – Bella Union – 2006
95. Chinese Translation - M. Ward – Post-War – Merge – 2006
96. Ten Thousand Orchestras – Golden Bear – Golden Bear – C-Side Records – 2006
97. The Funeral – Band Of Horses – Everything All The Time-SubPop – 2006
98. Cursed Sleep – Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Drag City – 2006
99. Anthem For The Already Defeated - Rock Plaza Central – Are We Not Horses – Yep Roc – 2007
100. Mistreating Queen - Radio Moscow – Radio Moscow – Alive Records – 2007

{ 250 comments… read them below or add one }

canarama May 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm

The White Stripes deserve a bit more love here.

maxxy July 11, 2011 at 6:30 am

uhm NWA on an indie songs list? Express Yourself is a hip hop.

Greg August 7, 2011 at 2:10 am

NO MODEST MOUSE???!??!?!? serious?The white f’n stripes?Who are you anyway?some great bands here but others…?Modest Mouse might be considered better than all these’s bands.i can name at least 10 songs that should be on there..Shall I?

The animus August 10, 2011 at 11:08 am

Check out transition by the animus

Rafik August 19, 2011 at 4:04 am

Druganaut and Wolf Like Me both on one list? Jesus Christ, are you me?

I will now listen to all of these songs eventually.

BL Horne August 19, 2011 at 6:43 am

Fantastic Effort my friend, a lovely way to while away a few hours with a four pack of Stella Artois! Nice one brother!

colt September 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

Duh NWA is hip hop but they were an independent group so they do deserve a spot on this list

DEWI88 October 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm

WTF?? Were is MGMT at on this list?

trozo November 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm

This article was made 4 years ago, but still people comment it. People like me. Damn, thats so emo-melancholic that i dnt know if I should listen to Thirteen Senses for a while or cut my veins. Fuck TS, i will cut my veins.

Rick Ross December 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm

These are the songs of all TIME! I can’t wait to be on this list one day…. Just one day.

boxer365360 December 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm

nope its the roses the mondays the hacienda madchester thing you fuckin moron!! ever been there? no i bet ya havnt’??? just stayed at ya student shithole drinkin jd n coke and talkin shit about how big ya gonna make it some day and ya room smells of sweaty socks

Matt December 27, 2011 at 5:20 am

Dude, I think you need to look up what indie music actually sounds like! Most of that isn’t indie at all!!!

Brian Lambert December 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Labeling this post 100 best songs released by independent albums would be more appropriate. Can’t think of anyone who would consider Motley Crue, NWA or the White Stripes as indie bands. That being said, glad “Lines in the Shirt” by Spoon made the cut. Another band I don’t think of as indie is Wilco, that being said “Jesus Etc” may be my all time favorite song ever.

Homosapiel January 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Indie is a term that has been used for over 20 years for a genre of music in the UK that you in the US maybe call Alternative Rock.Americans hear the term used but have no idea what it actually means,it hasn’t meant independant for decades.

Mr top 100 songs February 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

Hi.

I am a list making maniac my self, and do not criticize fellow list makers.

This is an interesting list. I was surprised to see Motley Crue at the top. But I like surprises.

You should not let definitions of music styles stop you from making lists. That is my motto.

Great site by the way.

Sævar.

Davie.P February 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Kind of surprised Florence & the Machine isn’t at least in the 90′s.

Slapmonster February 18, 2012 at 4:00 am

No Flaming Lips???????????????????????????

Luna April 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm

And Funeral from Band of Horses should at least be at top 10.
Not such a great list.

Brandon the snob May 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm

to GREG… on aug 7th… 2011. You must not understand that “indie” stands for “independent” and Modest Mouse, as great a band as they are, have never been on an independent label, and so, having only been signed to a major label, have not (and likely will not any time soon) be considered an “indie” band. Indie is not a genre. sorry man.

Brandon the snob May 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm

also, same thing to slapmonster. flaming lips are signed to a major label man. they “sound” indie, but they are not and Matt. and Homosapiel… that was just retarded. im sorry. again, “indie” is not a genre. also, did anyone read how the list worked? its not worst to best, its chronological. seriously… how do people not know what indie means. there are indei metal bands, indie hip-hop, pop, rock. seriously. INDIE IS NOT A GENRE. this is a good list, and the person or people whomade it knew what they were doing.

Patricia B May 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

There should be some Band of Horses and modest mouse in this! Excited to make my way through this list though :)

Bonglih konyak May 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Where’s MGMT???? Best indie band ever. Thanks for the list though. :-) <3

edd May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

poop

Slug Macaloon June 2, 2012 at 6:45 am

MGMT? Florence? Hahahaha.

Great list! If a little US centric – should be some Fall, JAMC, Wedding Present, etc.

Indie has become something of a dirty word since the likes of Oasis & Blur came on the scene & the genre “Indie” was born. This list is true to the original meaning of the term.

Chris the snob hater June 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm

To BRANDON – Unless you have a unique definition of what constitutes an “independent” record label, I’m afraid you are confused. Modest Mouse existed long before they released their first major label record in 2000. They released much of their greatest work on the indie labels K and Up Records, and I have to agree with Greg that there are several songs included in that work that could easily be included in (or at the top of) this list.

Kyle June 27, 2012 at 12:43 am

Chris the snob hater: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie_rock
That’s the definition of indie rock…definantly a genre

Stonerosesrule July 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Y u no put stone roses at number 1. They are way better than sum of these on here. I no its ur opinion but still

Sabrina July 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Kyle, you’re the idiot. Indie rock is a genre of independent rock but indie in and of itself is an umbrella term for all music constituted as independent music. So yes here is indie rock, yes there is indie pop, indie country, indie pop, and so on. It just means that the music considered independent are not signed under major record labels. Why people generalize “indie” into some muddled concept is beyond me. Just because a folky artist writes emotive lyrics and dresses like a vagrant from the 40s, it doesn’t make him/her an independent artist. Long story short, if you can find an artist in the iPod of a twelve year old, they’re most likely not independent.

sinead August 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

Uhhh The xx ? M83 ? Florence ? Blue fondation ? Foster the people ? White hinterland ?? More modern peeps need to be added!!!

Lee August 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm

why are people saying look up what indie music sounds like? Maybe you should look up what indie music is yourself, it doesnt have a specific sound, it refers to independant record labels.

max September 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm

where’s bell x1 ?

Lia November 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I have to say, this is the best list of this sort I have ever read! really, really good job! except I would have Hey by the pixies as well as monkey gone to heaven…..

melina December 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I ABSOLUTELY 100% agree w/ GREG
NO MODEST MOUSE thats crazy! at least the pixies and death cab made it. :)

iman December 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

the people asking about foster the people and florence etc do understand that this was made in ’07, right?

Logan December 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I agree. I looked down this list praying to see at least half or more be modest mouse. No ones first and your next, the fruit that ate itself. Hell even sad sappy sucker. But no love to the greatest indie rock band ever to record? If you don’t agree with me and some of the other post then go to iTunes right now and buy every modest mouse album on there. Don’t go the free way and illegally download it either pay for. And if you still disagree then never look at a indie rock top hit list again. Side note a little MGMT would have been nice

schlong hammer January 25, 2013 at 10:32 am

Glad to see Superchunk. They are such a good band and deserve more credit…I mean, they founded Merge Records.

schlong hammer January 25, 2013 at 10:36 am

Also, this needs some My Bloody Valentine. Loveless is an extremely influential album. A lot of new independent bands sound like MBV.

Arya February 28, 2013 at 1:11 am

Where’s MGMT?? Love new slang too

A&R March 17, 2013 at 11:53 am

No MGMT? The xx? Arctic monkeys? Ugly casanova? Alex turner? Richard Hawley? Or no Modest Mouse? What a disgrace.

clit March 20, 2013 at 8:49 am

modest mouse in the years 94 – 2002 were never on a major label…in 2002 with moons and antartica was major… so they for sure are indie rock…because Seattle has huge independent studios that arent major labels because the scene there and in a lot of places is how people would describe the class of indie rock to be….

Philip March 31, 2013 at 9:20 am

No smiths….?

Michael April 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

No SONIC YOUTH…are you completely insane?

Jenyo April 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Circle from Sydney might not be very will know but they’re a great indie band. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TDdYr0DEC0&feature=share&list=PL_EzBWNUCEwhyzQHMnQbUp28_0PTlBYZr

Marlowe Fox April 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

One of the most disinterested and comprehensive list that I have ever come across. It is relatively difficult to identify a bias with regard to a particular genre or time. I look forward to parsing through the list. It is a pleasure to see a list with MMJ, the National, Inerpol, DBT, Okervil, Pixies, Cat Power, and Pavement.

Emily April 21, 2013 at 1:41 am

You clearly have no idea what Indie is.

NIPPLAH May 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

NO SMITHS?? NO MODEST MOUSE?? NO ELLIOT SMITH?? GOT DAMNNN ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! WHO CREATED THIS HYPOCRISY??

Editor October 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Americans should stop doing lists like that. Simply because they haven´t got a clue what Indie actually is.

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cyndie October 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm

MGMT!!!!!!

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