The 50 Most Influential Indie Rock Bands

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By Caitlin White

Indie rock has transmogrified into one of the hardest genres on earth to define. Bands trying to break through love to title themselves as "indie rock" as though it were a specific sound, while critics love to point back to scions of the underground scene in an attempt to pinpoint when the genre began. Questions of mainstream success and major label affiliation also enter the ring—are there really sell-out points and did bands that cavorted with the majors disqualify themselves from indie status forever?

These debates and many others, (such as my current favorite, what is the line between indie rock and folk, but that's for another piece) are fringing themselves into tinier and more complex questions, even as you are reading this. Here at P&P we may not hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the indie universe, but we have selected what our 50 most influential bands on the indie rock scene and sound are. In the case of these selections, bands were regarded for their contribution to their present time, as well as the way their sound infiltrated future generations. Bands were not disqualified for signing with the majors (Hello—Sonic Youth even did it guys), but certain levels of mainstream success (read: The Beatles) were taken into consideration.

Is 2013 the year we go post-indie? Is 2013 the year we stop using the prefix post plus an old genre name to describe new things? Only time will tell. For now, read through our picks and get really disgruntled or really happy, then tell us your thoughts—because we know you'll have them—on Twitter.

Click to start the list

By Caitlin White

Indie rock has transmogrified into one of the hardest genres on earth to define. Bands trying to break through love to title themselves as “indie rock” as though it were a specific sound, while critics love to point back to scions of the underground scene in an attempt to pinpoint when the genre began. Questions of mainstream success and major label affiliation also enter the ring—are there really sell-out points and did bands that cavorted with the majors disqualify themselves from indie status forever?

These debates and many others, (such as my current favorite, what is the line between indie rock and folk, but that’s for another piece) are fringing themselves into tinier and more complex questions, even as you are reading this. Here at P&P we may not hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the indie universe, but we have selected what our 50 most influential bands on the indie rock scene and sound are. In the case of these selections, bands were regarded for their contribution to their present time, as well as the way their sound infiltrated future generations. Bands were not disqualified for signing with the majors (Hello—Sonic Youth even did it guys), but certain levels of mainstream success (read: The Beatles) were taken into consideration.

Is 2013 the year we go post-indie? Is 2013 the year we stop using the prefix post plus an old genre name to describe new things? Only time will tell. For now, read through our picks and get really disgruntled or really happy, then tell us your thoughts—because we know you’ll have them—on Twitter.

  • Sofia

    PREACH IT. At the end i was at least expecting some kind of recognition to Galaxie 500 or some ACTUAL post-punk band, not effing Interpol

  • Sofia

    Being indulgent, we might think that the writer of this post was rather confused with his concepts of “influential” and “indie”, since the omission of some obvious influential indie bands for the sake of naming bands like Modest Mouse or Grizzly Bear, seems more like an election for a list of the currently most widespread sounds. But then, the fact that Interpol is listed as an influence in “post-punk” can only be a grim terrible joke, or product of an evident lack of musical knowledge. I raise my voice with my ppl down there: where the heck is The Velvet Underground?! Absolutely no 70′s punk-directed bands, nor madchester scene, i don’t believe it!

  • Ty

    At first I was like: WHAT?! NOT SONIC YOUTH?!!!!

    Then I looked again and went: Oh! Duh :D

  • Ty

    *NO SONIC YOUTH?!!!! (oops)

  • http://www.barefacedliar.com/ Barefaced Liar

    Guys Check Out Live Performance of ‘To The Alamo’ by Barefaced Liar, a Top Indie Rock Band at http://youtu.be/l3KYfGxRaus

  • http://www.barefacedliar.com/ Barefaced Liar

    Guys Check Out Live Performance of ‘To The Alamo’ by Barefaced Liar, a Top Indie Rock Band at http://youtu.be/l3KYfGxRaus

  • http://www.barefacedliar.com/ Barefaced Liar

    You should Check Out Live Performance of ‘To The Alamo’ by Barefaced Liar, a Top Indie Rock Band at http://youtu.be/l3KYfGxRaus

  • http://www.facebook.com/garrett.wilson.16 Garrett Wilson

    I would put Sebadoh or the Minutemen on here.

  • Jorge Lourenço

    THE FUCKING STROKES DUMBASS BLOG!

    SO MANY ALTERNATIVE BANDS HERE THAT WERE INFLUENCED AND NOT THE INFLUENCE!

  • Eugênio

    Cadê The Strokes?
    Eugênio from Brazil

  • iguy704

    beach house!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!???!?!?!!?!

  • DAVE

    Imagine dragons should be up here. Its an abomination that its not.

  • levilevilevi

    arctic monkeys are the best by far!

  • Jonatan

    Really.. Really??

  • Christopher Santine

    You frickin’ never heard of The Fall??? A band that influenced your number one??FFS? This list = FAIL.

  • Corey

    THe list lacks a lof of things, but c’mon, the Stone Roses is waaay down on the list.

  • Alex

    No Arctic Monkeys?! Well, that’s a surprise…

  • Topogigo

    Hey!! I am in Florida and no one excepts my brother and I knows about Fugazi…

  • Eric of Sebadoh

    You’re right Brad, how in the name of God did i not make the Top 50? As if starting Sebadoh in my garage wasn’t enough, then had the first record on Domino, helping launch that label & telling them who to sign (Pavement/Royal Trux etc) Fuck this p.o.s. list

  • Taylor

    just happy this list had bright eyes :)

  • Taylor

    just happy this list had bright eyes :)

  • mr

    seriously, Velvet Underground should be #1, Nirvana above Radiohead?? Where’s the Stooges, The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, Bauhaus, Can, Television, Mogwai to name a few??? Nick Cave also

  • Taylor

    No one even thought about Coldplay? I’m ashamed of you all.

  • Ismael Ancona

    this list is missing a great indie band Death Cab For Cutie

  • George Acheson

    No Oasis, Blur, Suede, Ash? All four of them are more influential than Joy Division

  • thinktank691

    this list is silly… Wilco 39? No Death Cab? … a band I could give or take but cannot deny their influence on young bands… this list is off…

  • jojo

    Uhhhhh… husker du????

  • Marcel

    no they’re not

  • Tim

    Are you nuts? Joy Division are gods. I do not discredit the talent of Oasis or Blur. They are the definition of Brit pop not godfathers of indie.

  • Tim

    How is Coldplay indie? Fail

  • Tim

    I may not agree with every selection, but you are bang on in your belief.

  • Mary

    No Strokes? C’mon.

  • poppy

    good

  • poppy

    epic

  • poppy

    Corey your a bastard

  • Sav

    I think The White Stripes deserve a higher spot to be honest. #17 is pretty decent, but considering how influential they for their generation and the music industry when they were around, I believe they deserve a better spot. In my mind, they really reminded everyone that garage-rock is still alive in a big way. They deserve a lot of credit for that and a better spot on this lame list.

    Also where the hell are The Strokes and The Velvet Underground?? I am pleased that Spoon is on this list though. But overall this list really sucks.

  • fiona

    I agree with you. jack white is considered a rock god these days for a reason, not just because he dresses like willy wonka, plays the guitar like an unearthly being and people find it amusing. Its because the music he makes is amazing, unique and has influenced tons musicians, which nobody can deny. the white stripes definitely deserve a higher spot. also I’d say beck deserves a better spot too.

  • liam

    yea seriously. arcade fire above the white stripes? arcade fire is amazing and every album they come out with is golden, but you cant put those guys above a mind like jack white. theyre obviously very different bands that both make great music, but jack white carried a band on his own, brought a genre of music back to the mainstream almost entirely by himself, and is one of the most skilled guitarists to come out of our generation. arcade fire needs like 7 people to function and none of them have jack white’s talent unless you put them all together and even then i don’t think theyre up to par with him. this list is upsetting.

  • Quentin Driver

    First of all, what is this list: A list of the bands who were most significant WITHIN the indie community, or just the most significant indie bands in general? Of course I can understand why Pavement are #4, their name is synonymous with indie, but are they actually better and more INFLUENTIAL than Radiohead???

  • maybe, maybe not

    Just glad The Smiths got in at a high place *phew*