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15 Best Indie Rock Bands Ever

To celebrate this unconventional style of music, we’re here to take you through 15 of the best indie rock bands to ever exist.

The indie rock genre has been around since the mid-80s. Although each indie rock artist adds their own spin on the genre (that’s the beauty of it!), it’s typically a fuse between unique indie lyricism and heavier instrumental play.

To celebrate this unconventional style of music, we’re here to take you through 15 of the best indie rock bands ever. From new indie rock bands shaping the future to older ones responsible for trends, you’ll surely find a new band to have on repeat.

#15 Joy Division

It’s hard to believe Joy Division was only a band for four years. Even now, you must walk into Urban Outfitters to see their logo printed on anything you could imagine! In their short stint, Joy Division was known for experimenting with post-punk sounds that are still hailed in indie rock today.

Popular songs:

  • “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
  • “Disorder”
  • “Atmosphere”

#14 Dinosaur Jr

While many indie rock bands focus on future sounds, Dinosaur Jr. did the opposite. Formed by guitarist J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr. rose to fame by making music inspired by the 1960s and 1970s. They particularly enlightened the older alternative scene, encouraging nostalgia for what the genre once was.

Popular songs:

  • “Feel the Pain”
  • “Start Choppin'”
  • “Freak Scene”

#13 The Stone Roses

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, getting through your day without hearing about The Stone Roses was impossible. This alternative rock band from England incorporated elements of electronic dance into their typically alternative music, influencing millions worldwide.

Popular songs:

  • “I Wanna Be Adored”
  • “She Bangs the Drums”
  • “Fools Gold”

#12 Sonic Youth

If you were to pinpoint when indie rock began, you’d soon discover it was around when New York’s Sonic Youth came onto the scene. When Sonic Youth first debuted their music, New York lacked a music culture. That soon changed when Sonic Youth picked up their loud guitars! 

Popular songs:

  • “Teen Age Riot”
  • “Superstar”
  • “Kool Thing”

#11 The Smiths

Can you classify yourself as an indie rock band if you haven’t been awarded the title of “controversial?”. The Smiths are certainly that, known for poetic lyricism and Morrissey’s rebellious nature. The Smiths were responsible for another subgenre, Brit Pop, that bands like Oasis still capitalize on today.

Popular songs:

  • “This Charming Man”
  • “How Soon Is Now?”
  • “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”

#10 Pixies

When you think of alternative rock, the image of intricately shaped guitars and leather jackets probably springs to mind. You can partially thank Pixies for that. Combining catchy pop songs with loud and proud guitars, Pixies are perfect for any mood, at any time of day.

Popular songs:

  • “Where Is My Mind?”
  • “Here Comes Your Man”
  • “Debaser”

#9 The Strokes

It feels like The Strokes have been around forever, but they didn’t release their debut studio album until 2001. Carried by the iconic vocalist Julian Casablancas, The Strokes played an important role in determining what indie rock should sound like in the 2000s. Judging by all of the other great artists on this list, it’s safe to say they did a great job.

Popular songs:

  • “Last Nite”
  • “Reptilia”
  • “Someday”

#8 Talking Heads

Talking Heads is one of the older bands mentioned in this indie rock roundup. They formed in 1975 and have greatly influenced the genre ever since. They tapped into mainstream media during the 80s while maintaining an indie presence, proving that you didn’t have to be a pop artist to be popular.

Popular songs:

  • “Once in a Lifetime”
  • “Psycho Killer”
  • “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

#7 Arctic Monkeys

We highly doubt that you need an introduction to Arctic Monkeys! The band was formed in 2002 and has been the poster man for indie rock ever since. Showcasing a sleek aesthetic and recognizable northern accent, Arctic Monkeys are responsible many huge hits!

Popular songs:

  • “Do I Wanna Know?”
  • “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
  • “Fluorescent Adolescent”

#6 Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is undoubtedly one of the best indie artists of all time. Even their name is enticing! Although Pearl Jam is predominately considered grunge, many of its songs feature catchy hooks and repetitive choruses, which also fit into the indie rock genre. Its lyrics have gained a massive following due to touching on socio-political matters.

Popular songs:

  • “Alive”
  • “Jeremy”
  • “Better Man”

#5 Red Hot Chili Peppers

We have Red Hot Chili Peppers to thank for adding a touch of funk to the world of indie rock. Since they became super popular in the early 90s, the Chili Peppers have experimented with psychedelic sounds that created a whole new genre. Even all these years on, they sell out every show they play, proving that indie rock will never die.

Popular songs:

  • “Under the Bridge”
  • “Scar Tissue”
  • “Can’t Stop”

#4 The Clash 

The Clash was a band that wasn’t afraid to step away from stereotypes. This is a common theme amongst indie rock artists. Many of their tunes were driven by angst, touching on social matters that no one dared to talk about. This bold nature paid off for the band, allowing them to touch the hearts of a huge audience while creating hit after hit.

Popular songs:

  • “London Calling”
  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
  • “Rock the Casbah”

#3 Radiohead

Although they’ve changed their sound a fair bit since they came onto the scene, Radiohead will always be an indie rock band in our eyes. Their debut work certainly fit this genre, covering abstract themes and complex instrumentals. If you listen to their albums in order, realizing how consistent they remain while shaking things up entirely is interesting. Very few bands can do that.

Popular songs:

  • “Creep”
  • “Karma Police”
  • “Paranoid Android”

#2 Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was formed in England in 1965. Similarly to the prior two bands, they were an incredibly influential group that still inspires the indie rock scene. The majority of Pink Floyd songs feature psychedelic twangs with stereotypical indie lyricism. Their live shows were always something to remember.

Featured in: our best albums with white covers

Popular songs:

  • “Wish You Were Here”
  • “Comfortably Numb”
  • “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”

#1 The Beatles

The Beatles were, by far, the most successful band of the 20th century. They tapped into every entertainment market possible, including music, film, and fashion. Their impact on various cultures and generations is still evident to this day. If you listen to The Beatles albums, you’ll explore love, peace, and harmony themes, backed by psychedelic-inspired instrumentals and a happy-go-lucky vibe. It’s this experimental nature that put The Beatles in history books forevermore.

Featured in our top artists from the 60s!

Popular songs:

  • “A Day in the Life”
  • “Let It Be”
  • “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Who’s your favorite indie rock artist?

The indie rock scene spans many subgenres and sounds, making it hard to pick just one artist to crown as the best. While the fifteen mentioned here are some of our favorites, we’d love your recommendations!

Emily, a writer and retro music enthusiast at Upbeat Geek, delves into the history of music and pop culture, spotlighting legendary artists and trends. A fixture at festivals and concerts, she brings the latest in music lore to the forefront. Emily’s love for music research is matched by her enjoyment of leisurely Sunday walks with her dog, Lee, reflecting her areas of writing: music and pop culture.

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