The fine folks over at amazon.com decided that the time was ripe to assemble a list of the best indie rock albums of all time. Indie rock is a genre either really easy to define or kind of confusing to define, but that sentiment did not hold back amazon.com as their staff writers compiled their massive list. It is a sight to behold and it includes some impressive (and not so impressive) albums. Revel in the glory of the list after the jump.
1. Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices
2. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
3. Spiderland by Slint
4. Exile In Guyville by Liz Phair
5. Imperial f.f.r.r. (Deluxe Edition) by Unrest
6. Slanted & Enchanted by Pavement
7. If You're Feeling Sinister by Belle & Sebastian
8. Surfer Rosa by Pixies
9. Either/Or by Elliott Smith
10. Bakesale by Sebadoh
11. 69 Love Songs Volume 1 by The Magnetic Fields
12. Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth
13. Michigan by Sufjan Stevens
14. We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes by Death Cab For Cutie
15. I See A Darkness by Bonnie "Prince" Billy
16. No Pocky for Kitty by Superchunk
17. Dig Me Out by Sleater-Kinney
18. Give Up by The Postal Service
19. Kill the Moonlight by Spoon
20. I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo
21. Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil... by Bright Eyes
22. Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate
23. Moon Pix by Cat Power
24. Funeral by Arcade Fire
25. Black Candy by Beat Happening
26. The Glow Pt. 2 by The Microphones
27. Yellow House by Grizzly Bear
28. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas... by godspeed you black emperor!
29. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy by Jawbreaker
30. Zen Arcade by Hüsker Dü
31. Repeater + 3 Songs by Fugazi
32. Let It Be [Expanded Edition] by The Replacements
33. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
34. Let's Get Out of This Country by Camera Obscura
35. Person Pitch by Panda Bear
36. Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron & Wine
37. When Your Heartstrings Break by Beulah
38. I Am A Bird Now by Antony & The Johnsons
39. You Forgot It In People by Broken Social Scene
40. This Nation's Saving Grace by The Fall
41. Gulag Orkestar by Beirut
42. Mass Romantic [Remastered] by The New Pornographers
43. On by Imperial Teen
44. On Fire by Galaxie 500
45. How Memory Works by Joan Of Arc
46. Advisory Committee by Mirah
47. Red House Painters I by Red House Painters
48. Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros
49. Wild Love by Smog
50. And Don't The Kids Just Love It by Television Personalities
51. Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab
52. Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express by The Go Betweens
53. Sing No Evil by Half Japanese
54. Pussy-Whipped by Bikini Kill
55. The Mysterious Production of Eggs by Andrew Bird
56. The Decline And Fall Of Heavenly by Heavenly
57. Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes by TV On The Radio
58. Fabulous Muscles by Xiu Xiu
59. Set Yourself On Fire by Stars
60. Daddy's Highway by The Bats
61. Neon Golden by The Notwist
62. TNT by Tortoise
63. Destroyer's Rubies by Destroyer
64. Rejoicing in The Hands by Devendra Banhart
65. Coquelicot Asleep In The Poppies... by Of Montreal
66. Milk Man by Deerhoof
67. Will You Find Me by Ida
68. Oh, Inverted World by The Shins
69. Feast of Wire by Calexico
70. The Fawn by The Sea And Cake
71. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized
72. II & III by Camper Van Beethoven
73. The R&B of Membership by The Delta 72
74. The Curtain Hits The Cast by Low
75. Furnace Room Lullaby by Neko Case
76. Jane From Occupied Europe by Swell Maps
77. The Smell Of Our Own by The Hidden Cameras
78. Nothing Feels Good by The Promise Ring
79. De Stijl by The White Stripes
80. The Ugly Organ by Cursive
81. The Sea and the Bells by Rachel's
82. The Last Match by The Aislers Set
83. Save Yourself by Make Up
84. Hearts Of Oak by Ted Leo/Pharmacists
85. Vivian Girls by Vivian Girls
86. Worn Copy by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
87. Cure For Pain by Morphine
88. The Power Out by Electrelane
89. The Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom
90. Louden Up Now by !!!
91. Gallowsbird's Bark by The Fiery Furnaces
92. Horses In The Sky by Silver Mt. Zion
93. Alligator by The National
94. Waiter: 'You Vultures!' by Portugal The Man
95. The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone by The Apples In Stereo
96. Trans Am by Trans Am
97. Ultimate Alternative Wavers by Built To Spill
98. To Survive by Joan As Police Woman
99. Passover by The Black Angels
100. Dangerous Magical Noise by The Dirtbombs
The criteria, as determined by amazon.com:
• One album per artist.
• No EPs or singles, this list is about albums.
• No greatest hits collections or compilations of previously released tracks.
• Nominations must have been originally released on an independent label. Albums released on indies which were later acquired and/or re-released by majors are allowed (like Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, originally released by a pre-1989 major label merger Enigma Records).
These lists are never free of personal bias or lack of knowledge. I am not old enough (or savvy enough) to be that into Guided By Voices, other than the song "Bulldog Skin" and its fantastic video. Yet I won't argue with Bee Thousand taking the top spot. It is a neat pick to finish their list, an album that they most likely had in mind as the preeminent number one before even compiling the list.
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I have a few gripes with some artists included (Trans Am, Electrelane, Spiritualized) but, overall, the list reads pretty smoothly. Perhaps Elliott Smith's Either/Or is a better album than XO, but I suppose its inclusion rests on the fact that it was released on Kill Rock Stars while XO was released on Dreamworks, a decidedly un-indie label. That conundrum befalls a few artists on the list, like The White Stripes and Sonic Youth, who have become rather mainstream rock outfits, shedding their once tidy "indie" label. Their early albums demand inclusion, but some may argue later albums by these same bands are much better. With only one album per artist on the list, it is fitting to include the band's earlier work, before widespread recognition and major record labels came calling.
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I must also say it takes balls to include Slint and Unrest in the top ten, not to mention Sebadoh. These are the bands that perfected the "indie" label well before it became so damn trendy. These bands toiled in the early 1990's making music that wasn't mainstream rock or hair metal, forcing open the door for bands of the early 2000's and today to continue to turn rock music on its ear. No list will ever be definitive, but this list is impressive in its size and its attention to detail. What is most impressive, though, is the respect it pays to those bands responsible for carrying the indie rock banner throughout the late 1980's on through today.
Take a look at the original list at amazon.com.
Oh, and thanks, Amazon, for putting some dark-framed eyeglasses in the banner for the list. Real original.