Ten Flawless Indie Rock Albums

Indie rock is a huge blanket term so don’t be surprised if some of the albums listed came out on a major label, k?

1. Fever To Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a lot to prove with their debut album. Their first two EPS were met with major fanfare and every music critic seemed to be S-ing their D. People were expecting a masterpiece with Fever To Tell and thankfully they got one. It’s a filthy record, complete with Karen O’s signature moans and growls, and it takes you on a ride through dirty New York City with its sexy lyrics and raunchy guitar riffs. What was truly stupendous about the record, though, is that it had heart. The famous “Maps” and the closer “Modern Romance” revealed the sweet tender side of the band. It was like the nice sweet comedown from an insane drug binge. And you know what? I still love them. I know it feels so 2003 saying so but they’re still awesome.

2. Turn On The Bright Lights by Interpol

There must’ve been something in the water in the early ’00s {read: so much cocaine} because indie rock was riding an indestructible wave. You Are Free by Cat Power and Is This It? by The Strokes were career-making albums along with the first offering from NYC gloom rockers, Interpol. Like everyone else in their musical peer group, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the release of Turn On The Bright Lights and the boys didn’t disappoint. The album is epic with its swirling guitars and moody vocals. Yes, they sound sort of like Joy Division, and yes, the album is sort of a big downer but it’s a fucking good downer. Whenever I’m sad, I always knock on this album’s door and take solace. It’s never felt so good to feel so bleak.

3. The Boy With The Arab Strap by Belle & Sebastian

My relationship with this record started out on a sort of dramatic note. My older hip sister had been listening to them around the house and gave me the record late one night under the condition that I don’t tell any of my friends about. It was that special to her and she didn’t want the band to ever go mainstream. I did keep it a secret for a hot minute but the band went mainstream anyway when they hired Trevor Horn (a dude who produced a Seal album) to make Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I take some solace in knowing that we’ll always have The Boy With The Arab Strap though. The album is just beautiful. It’s twee without being annoying. It’s not necessarily delicate. Songs like “Sleep The Clock Around” demonstrate a tougher more anthemic sound. The darling Isobel Campbell was still doing vocals with them. It’s just pure contentment bottled in an album. Listen to it and tell ALL your friends.

4. Self-Titled by The Stone Roses

The seminal debut album by Manchester rock band, The Stone Roses, is important. It’s what people mean when they call records important. Released in 1989, the album quickly became revered by critics and was labeled one of the most important British rock albums ever. And with good reason. Even though the group sometimes falls into that Manchester sound that was popularized by groups like The Smiths and Happy Monday, The Stone Roses were different. For one, their music was happier. It sounds more like Britpop, with its upbeat harmonies and cheerful drumming. It basically took Manchester’s frown and turned it upside down. Unfortunately, the group only released two records but their musical legacy is everlasting. Obsessed.

5. Loveless by My Bloody Valentine

I mean, duh. Do we even need to discuss? This album was the bomb.com and basically defined shoegaze to a generation. It’s so dark with its hazy guitars and fuzz drenched vocals. It’s definitely not something you should play on a picnic. But it’s amazing anytime you’re feeling pensive, stoned, or both.


Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/plansgetcomplex Brian Robin

    Kudos on YFIIP.

    Now we just need Transatlanticism up in this piece.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    best coast?  really?

    where’s in the aeroplane over the sea?  under the western freeway?  is this it?  crooked rain, crooked rain?  yankee hotel foxtrot? the meadowlands?


    • http://twitter.com/joshliburdi Josh Liburdi

      yes @ the meadowlands. a thousand times yes.

    • Anonymous

      you are right, i like you

    • Guest

      It’s not a top ten.

  • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

    That’s more like it, O’Connell. I take back what I commented earlier today.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HYTLXH3LX6NTP2SJDQKOZDH6HA AZJay1007

    Did anyone ask where “Funeral” was on this list?

    • yep

      fuck. arcade. fire. they suck.

    • http://twitter.com/neuroboy Chris Borger

      I kinda feel like, whereas Ryan calls BSS the new U2 “in the best way possible”, that Arcade Fire are the flip side of the coin and embody the overwrought, overreaching, please-just-get-over-yourselves arena rock aspects of U2. 

      Y’know, I’m jus’ sayin’.

  • http://twitter.com/blingless Dave P

    A very poor list. Any top 10 indie rock albums list that omits Pavement’s “Slanted and Enchanted” is suspect, to say nothing of records by Guided by Voices or Sebadoh. These are touchstones, unlike Vivian Girls or Best Coast.

    • meredith

       truth. I think that any post 2005 indie rock is just a buzz band.

    • meredith

       truth. I think that any post 2005 indie rock is just a buzz band.

    • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

      oh yeah GBV. Saw them in Atlanta last October…. oh my fuck I died(May have been the 8 whiskey cokes I had).

      • http://twitter.com/neuroboy Chris Borger

        agreed. Bee Thousand = flawless.

    • Guest

      It’s not a top ten, asshole!

      • http://twitter.com/blingless Dave P

        Fine. Still, this list is seriously lacking in some crucial fucking history. Nice call on the Breeders, though.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HYTLXH3LX6NTP2SJDQKOZDH6HA AZJay1007

    Sorry to criticize first. It’s a really good list IMO.

  • Cole

    No “You’re Living All Over Me” from Dinosaur Jr? That’s the best album EVER.

    But yeah, props for putting Belle and Sebastian up there. I love that record.

    • http://twitter.com/blingless Dave P

      Dinosaur are absolutely essential to indie rock.

  • Derby

    love that BSS song

  • http://twitter.com/jennifersussex Jennifer Sussex

    aww interpol. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/CaseyJonesATX Casey Jones

    Your first page is on point. I don’t know about the second one.

  • Anonymous

    Last Splash is probably my favorite anything album, ever. Interesting to include it and no Pixies

  • http://twitter.com/brandollars Brandon Silverman

    How “Emergency & I” by the Dismemberment Plan didn’t make this list, I have no idea. That’s the epitome of a perfect indie album. And get Vivian Girls off there – they truly are not good. Anybody can cover the fact that they can’t play their instruments with reverb and fuzz.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      incredible album

    • http://twitter.com/neuroboy Chris Borger


  • http://twitter.com/brandollars Brandon Silverman

    How “Emergency & I” by the Dismemberment Plan didn’t make this list, I have no idea. That’s the epitome of a perfect indie album. And get Vivian Girls off there – they truly are not good. Anybody can cover the fact that they can’t play their instruments with reverb and fuzz.

  • http://twitter.com/Otterom otterom

    Not sure if The National counts, but High Violet is pretty good.

  • http://fwp.me Calvin Camus

    I have opinions about music, too!

  • Jay

    What a fucking shitstorm. The article is titled “Ten Flawless Indie Rock Albums” not the top ten of all time” or something to that effect. Calm down, it’s a great list.

    • asdf

      Seriously, what a FUCKING shit storm. I can’t believe I even attempted to read the comments. 

    • damo

      the comments on TC are oftentimes fucking ridiculous. i’ve learnt to tune out about 75% of them.

  • Sfav

    there’s no way i’m gonna read the comments on this

  • Anonymous

    1) How can you limit the list to just 10?
    2) Isn’t Indie music just Adult Contemporary these days?  I mean, my friend’s dad who is a pastor turned us on to Sufjan Stevens when we were in high school for Christ’s Sake.

    • http://twitter.com/joshliburdi Josh Liburdi

      this comment is amazing for several reasons, none of which i will explain.

  • http://twitter.com/no_cazador hunter ray

    SORRY BUT FUCK BEST COAST. saw them live. les snooze. and I hate how it’s just a cult of personality around that lead singer chick that I don’t even have time to google her name….bethany?

    • your cousin

      True, Best Coast was one of the most boring shows I’ve ever been to in my life.

    • damo

      blame carles, man.

  • jacquesdacroc

    I’m new to “Indie Rock” but BRO WE DEF NEED DEATH CAB 4 CUTIE. WTF BRO?  

  • http://twitter.com/HipsterFriend HipsterFriend

    What about Kings of Leon? They’re like, totally indie.

    But for real, I think people are missing that this is a ten list, but not a top ten list.

    That said, I would not call any Interpol record flawless, and Crazy For You is certainly good but not in the same league as, say, Loveless or Fever to Tell. I would have replaced those with The Libertines’ self-titled and The Moon & Antarctica.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      turn on the bright lights is pretty flawless bro

      • http://twitter.com/klehrdealie klehr dealie

        “My best friend’s from Poland and, um, he has a beard.”
        it is totally flawless. i love that album

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

        he was growing on me


    • Guest

      Kings of Leon blow

      • http://twitter.com/HipsterFriend HipsterFriend

        That was the point [via sarcasm]. Hence the “but for real” to qualify that I meant the first line as sarcastic.

  • Diddly


  • Frank Tas, the Raptor

    If you like Vivian Girls you should check out Black Tambourine, Shop Assistants, Henry’s Dress, The Diskettes, Betty and the Werewolves, Heavenly, The Softies, Rose Melberg, The Raincoats, The Shaggs, The Slits, Boyracer, The Wedding Present, This Poison!, The Bright Lights, Velocity Girl, and any bands associated with these, if you haven’t already. If you like Juliana Hatfield you should check out Sleater-Kinney (duh), Throwing Muses, Elastica, Cub, Gaze, Bunky, and any bands associated with these, if you haven’t already. There are probably more but those are a good start. Sincerely, Someone who read this list and then felt like a concerned parent

    • Guest

      all these things are good things

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I really like Interpol’s old stuff. Vivian Girls… meh

  • Anatole

    Regarding Broken Social Scene, wasn’t U2 also at one time the U2 of the indie music world, rather than now being the U2 of the just the music world?

    Disclaimer: I am a rabid U2 fan, yet a bit of a hipster. I love a few Wilco songs, LOVE Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LOVE the Strokes, LOVE Coldplay, ABSOLUTELY HATE Man Man (and by extension, the entire “twee” genre), and, being a New Yorker, love coffee from Joe. I am comfortable with loving certain mainstream bands, loving certain indie bands, and comfortable with wishing that the best indie bands meet with mainstream success.

    Now please be gentle in your evisceration of my tastes, smiley-face.

    • Guest

      Ew, Coldplay.  

      • Anatole

        Well, lemme rephrase: I BECAME a huge fan of Coldplay after seeing the Viva La Vida tour, whereas in 8th grade I merely liked “Yellow.”

        Oh, I also LOVE Death Cab, now. Yes, I’m one of the post-Plans posers, hah hah.

    • Drakesucks

      man man is not twee. Nowhere near it. Probably the antithesis of twee. That’s not even subjective.

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