Best Indie Bands

To be indie is a strange thing. An independent band usually echews labels, fame, and fortune just for the sake of making music. When that fame eventually comes, are you still considered indie? Or a shell of your former anarchic selves? Well, really, who cares? Do you rock? – that should be the main criteria. The following bands are perfect examples of rocking through some sort of counter-culture, being able to maintain a level of cool without falling too much into the mainstream.

Click here for our Top Indie Bands

For more information on tickets for your favorite anti-establishment bands (damn the man, save the empire), visit SeatGeek.

Top Indie Rock Bands

10: Death Cab For Cutie

Ben Gibbard is emo/indie royalty, so it only makes sense that Death Cab is on this list. Introduced to the mainstream by the ever-adorable Seth Cohen (I will stand by this – who didn’t want a Seth Cohen starter pack?), DCFB is still rocking, er, jamming, er… making the perfect break-up music today. Seriously, they’ve soundtracked at least one of my major relationships, and I’m sure a few of yours.

9: Spoon

Spoon is one of the most long-running and successful indie bands (does that still make them indie? If a tree falls in the forest…). With nary a bad album to be seen, their 2010 album Transference hit No. 4 on U.S. charts. Frontman and lead singer extraordinaire Britt Daniel is a music-making machine, introducing the world to band White Rabbits and his new side project, Divine Fits.

8: Arctic Monkeys

Can you believe that Arctic Monkeys have been around for over a decade? Started by a group of teens in Sheffield, England, Alex Turner and company are thought to be one of the most prominent and promising bands to come out of the UK’s post-punk revival, achieving both commercial and critical success with perfect British swagger.

7: Pavement

Started in 1989, Pavement is the grandfather of American indie rock bands. First avoiding press or live performances, Pavement stayed underground longer than most bands could ever hope (and that’s a good thing). Though the band, er, disbanded in 1999, a reunion tour in 2010 was well-received by fans, so perhaps there is hope for further recordings.

6: The Strokes

2001 was the year of The Strokes – you couldn’t escape “Last Nite” or “Hard to Explain” in any public forum. Though the band went through an extensive break, with Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond, Jr., Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti pursuing their own excellent solo projects, The Strokes is a band greater than the sum of its parts. Their newest album was released in March 2013.

5: Arcade Fire

Critical darlings, multi-award winners, a band with 88 people in it (okay, that’s hyperbole) – all ways to describe Arcade Fire. Hailing from Montreal, Arcade Fire is the first and only band to win an Album of the Year Grammy (in 2011) as their first and only Grammy.

4: The Decemberists

If you’re looking for songs with a story, The Decemberists is your band. Lead singer Colin Meloy narrates tales of engine drivers, infanticide, military wives, mariners, and more, which, really, makes perfect sense – he published his first children’s book, Wildwood, with wife Carson Ellis in 2011.

3: Weezer

Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo is the example of what an introspective indie frontman should look like, hiding behind those thick black glasses (which he made cool long before Warby Parker). Weezer is responsible for some of the best indie singles of all time, including “Buddy Holly,” “Undone (The Sweater Song),” and “Say It Ain’t So.” Though the band’s indie cred has diminished with time, they’re still among the best (just try not to scream along to “Say It Ain’t So”).

2: Phoenix

The problem with Phoenix is that they are so effing cool. Like, untouchably cool. Because they’re French. And one of them is married to a Copola. Oh, and they make critically-acclaimed, untouchably awesome, completely danceable music. If you’re a musician, how do you compete with that? Just throw in the towel now and dance (with me).

1: Wilco

Another granddaddy of indie, Wilco is intensely prolific. Though their line-up has changed quite a bit over the years (with only lead singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt left from the originals), Wilco still active on the festival circuit. They’ve released eight studio albums, a live double album, and four collaborations, not to mention won more than a handful of awards. If you’re nominated for a Grammy in the same category as Wilco, it’s probably best just to extend your congratulations beforehand.