53 Best Indie Songs EVER

Best Indie Songs EVER

The indie genre started as music made by independent artists, but the term has become a catch-all for music made outside of mainstream aesthetics.

Indie music has spanned generations and genres. However you like your indie music, read our list of the best indie songs to discover forward-thinking artists.


“Bastards of Young” by The Replacements

Song year: 1985

The Replacements were the quintessential indie group of the '80s as their hardcore punk roots morphed into early indie rock.

In “Bastards of Young,” the band addresses their feelings of abandonment by the previous generation. The song remains a vital anthem of youth.

“Midnight City” by M83

Song year: 2011

French electronic duo M83 took indie music to the dancefloor with “Midnight City.”

The song's synth-heavy production is dynamically layered, and the explosive chorus begs the listener to shake their hips.

When you think the song couldn't get any better, a saxophone solo takes the song on a nostalgically flavored outro.

“Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen

Song year: 2016

Angel Olsen mixes doo-wop, grunge, and classic rock on her energetic rocker “Shut Up Kiss Me.”

The 2016 single helped her album My Woman crack the Billboard album charts on its way to becoming listed by multiple outlets as one of the year's best records.

“This Charming Man” by The Smiths

Song year: 1984

Jangle pop progenitors The Smiths' second single, “This Charming Man,” would become one of their most enduring.

Between guitarist Johnny Marr's trademark guitar sound and Morrisey's vocal delivery, this tale of a self-conscious young man has resonated with generations of indie-inclined youths.

“Cut Your Hair” by Pavement

Song year: 1994

Pavement's “Cut Your Hair” serves as a critique of the image-conscious mainstream music of the '90s.

The band was known for a slackerish approach that belied their deft musicianship. Pavement is one of the highest regarded and influential indie rock groups of the '90s.

“Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten

Song year: 2019

Sharon Van Etten hit on a powerful universal theme with her coming of age anthem “Seventeen.”

By juxtaposing her changing neighborhood with her age, Van Etten hits on the universal experience of growing up.

The slow build of the song and its passionate vocals beg for a sing-along.

“Silver Lining” by Rilo Kiley

Song year: 2007

Rilo Kiley had been kicking around the underground for years before the album Under the Blacklight brought the group widespread acclaim.

The album's opening track, “Silver Lining,” was named one of the best songs of 2007 by Rolling Stone and signaled a sleeker sound from the band.

“Incinerate” by Sonic Youth

Song year: 2006

Sonic Youth's career epitomizes indie ethos, spanning decades and genres while always staying true to an artistic spirit.

On “Incinerate,” the only single from Rather Ripped, Sonic Youth took a direct route to their usually oblique song structures. The result was a burst of indie rock perfection.

“Meet Me At Our Spot” by THE ANXIETY

Song year: 2021

Though The Anxiety's “Meet Me At Our Spot” didn't take off upon its initial 2020 release, the song's popularity on TikTok led to it charting globally in 2021.

“Meet Me At Our Spot” mixes dance elements with emo and alternative, making it a perfect, summery blend of indie styles.

“The Underdog” by Spoon

Song year: 2007

Spoon started their career as Pavement disciples, but through the '00s, the band would come into their own with an angular mix of rock and soul rhythms.

“The Underdog” was the first single off Spoon's critically acclaimed album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and has been featured in numerous films.

“I Feel It All” by Feist

Song year: 2007

Canadian indie-pop singer-songwriter Feist became a household name after her critically and commercially successful album The Reminder.

“I Feel It All” captures the vulnerability of Feist while highlighting her unique arrangement style. Lightly distorted guitars, chimes, and keyboards drive this classic '00s indie song.

“Space Song” by Beach House

Song year: 2015

Shoegaze duo Beach House let their beautiful and spacey soundscape simmer on their track “Space Song.”

In the band's typically restrained fashion, the song's melody and instrumentation alternate between maximalism and minimalism in its five minutes.

The result is a charming patchwork of synthesizers and vocals that make the listener feel like they're floating.

“Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile

Song year: 2015

Kurt Vile's style of sprawling songs and fingerpicked guitar-playing evokes some of the best of classic rock, but his songs would never be confused with '70s rock.

That's because Vile is a master of tone. While his hit “Pretty Pimpin” has all the hallmarks of classic rock, its production and arrangement are undeniably indie.

“Wolf Like Me” by TV On The Radio

Song year: 2006

Punk, dance, and electronica collide in TV on the Radio's “Wolf Like Me.”

The New York City group took inspiration from many indie art forms, as evidenced by the video for “Wolf Like Me,” which features spoken word poet Beau Sia while paying homage to silent films and b-horror movies.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Song year: 1980

Joy Division wrote an era-defining indie song when they penned “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It was released shortly after the suicide of their singer Ian Curtis.

The song is considered one of the greatest of all time. It captures the indie spirit of new wave at the beginning of the '80s.

“oh baby” by LCD Soundsystem

Song year: 2017

LCD Soundsystem came up in the fertile New York City music scene of the '00s. After several classic albums, the group decided to break up in 2011.

When the band reunited in 2015, they released “oh baby” to critical acclaim. The single is one of the best of their storied career.

“Washing Machine Heart” by Mitski

Song year: 2018

Eclectic singer-songwriter Mitski tackles gender roles head-on in her stunning Be the Cowboy single, “Washing Machine Heart.”

In the song, Mitski skewers domesticity using her trademark of genre-blending production. With haunting vocals and hard-hitting drums, the “Washing Machine Heart” release bolstered Be the Cowboy's critical acclaim.

“Nobody’s Baby” by Sheer Mag

Song year: 2016

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Sheer Mag applies a ragged punk approach to their classic rock songwriting. The result is a sweaty mess of sing-along anthems that are dance floor ready.

In “Nobody's Baby,” singer Christina Halladay plainly states that she's her own woman. It's a feminist anthem worthy of shaking your hips.

“Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service

Song year: 2003

“Such Great Heights” was the breakthrough single of The Postal Service's debut album Give Up.

The band is a side project of Dntel and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard. Their name comes from the correspondence they used to compose their songs.

“Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups

Song year: 2006

Silversun Pickups' “Lazy Eye” is a fist-pumping indie-rock anthem.

The song's layered guitars are restrained and catchy, somewhat reminiscent of '90s alternative rock. Just as you feel lulled by their mellow interplay, the track crescendos into a visceral proclamation of love.

“Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers

Song year: 2017

“Motion Sickness” marked Phoebe Bridgers' arrival as a wildly talented singer-songwriter.

Bridgers' honest assessment of a failed relationship was notable for its nuance and heartfelt performance. “Motion Sickness” wound up on the Billboard alternative charts as well as many year-end best-of lists.

“Under the Pressure” by The War on Drugs

Song year: 2014

Shoe-gaze rockers The War on Drugs' sprawling single “Under the Pressure” clocks in at nearly nine minutes in length.

You'd think that might be too long for a rock song, but The War on Drugs eases into the track in a way that makes it feel like part of one big tide of indie rock ocean.

“New Slang” by The Shins

Song year: 2001

“New Slang” put The Shins and indie music on the map at the beginning of the new Millenium.

The song's acoustic guitar gives the mellow vocal delivery and electric accompaniment an added depth. The song is indicative of the style of indie music that would come to dominate the '00s.

“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Song year: 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs were already a successful indie band, but they became international stars after releasing “Heads Will Roll.”

The song was a crossover hit, making appearances on the dance, alternative, and digital singles charts. The music video received an MTV Music Video Award nomination.

“Cannonball” by The Breeders

Song year: 1993

Ex-Pixies bassist Kim Deal started The Breeders in the '90s and immediately scored an alternative hit with “Cannonball.”

The song's catchy bassline and slinky guitar riffs give way to a fist-pumping chorus, creating an indie anthem that transcended the onslaught of grunge that dominated the airwaves.

“16 Military Wives” by The Decemberists

Song year: 2005

The Decemberists found a surprising amount of success in the '00s with their brand of highly literate indie-folk.

The band wrote “16 Military Wives” in response to the Iraq War. The song's anti-war stance also tackles the growing element of cable news in the mainstream.

“I’ll Believe In Anything” by Wolf Parade

“I’ll Believe In Anything” by Wolf Parade

Song year: 2005

“I'll Believe In Anything” is a single from Wolf Parade's debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary.

The album was released to critical acclaim and is considered one of the best indie albums of the era, along with “I'll Believe In Anything” being named one of the best indie songs of the '10s.

“Multi-Love” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Song year: 2015

Unknown Mortal Orchestra used psychedelia and neo-soul to paint a picture of polyamory on their single “Multi-Love.”

The song received praise for its sex-positive lyricism. It would be the breakthrough single for Unknown Mortal Orchestra and part of a growing trend of psychedelia in indie music.

“Rip It Up” by Orange Juice

Song year: 1982

Orange Juice stumbled upon their indie classic “Rip It Up” using a bass synthesizer and disco-inspired guitar lines.

The song was a departure for the Scottish band but would wind up defining their sound, and the sound of independent music, through the '80s.

“This Is Love” by PJ Harvey

Song year: 2000

PJ Harvey's “This Is Love” is a to-the-point proclamation of the simplicity of the feelings of love and lust.

Harvey's punkish vocal delivery and crushing guitar work give the song a dangerous quality. It's an empowering and sexual anthem that stands among her best work.

“The Funeral” by Band of Horses

Song year: 2006

“The Funeral” is a bombastic, guitar-driven indie-rock song by Band of Horses.

Band of Horses received wide acclaim for the song, with it considered one of the best indie songs of the decade by many media outlets.

“The Funeral” has been in dozens of films and tv shows.

“Masterpiece” by Big Thief

Song year: 2016

Ragged guitars and hard-hitting drums give Big Thief's vocalist Adrienne Lenker an aggressive bed for her vulnerability on “Masterpiece.”

Big Thief loudly proclaimed a quiet meditation on love and loss with a mixture of blues and punk. The juxtaposition works well and makes the song an instant indie classic.

“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty

Song year: 2012

Former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman finally found his voice when he began recording as Father John Misty.

In “Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings,” Tillman's drum kit cuts a menacing rhythm up the middle of a raggedly distorted guitar. The songs' debauched tale signaled the arrival of indie music's new ambassador.

“Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett

Song year: 2013

Courtney Barnett's lackadaisical guitar heroics and vocal delivery call to mind Kurt Vile and Pavement, but Barnett is a wholly original songwriter.

Barnett's “Avant Gardener” finds the singer taking a sprawling, Dylan-esque story of allergies and making the listener wonder about mortality. It's a genius stroke from the future Grammy Award nominee.

“My Mistakes” by Eleanor Friedberger

Song year: 2011

Eleanor Friedberger started her career with her brother as the duo The Fiery Furnaces. They were known for their highly experimental approach to composition.

Striking out on her own, Friedberger took the best of her Fiery Furnaces impulses and channeled them into pure indie-pop bliss. “My Mistakes” stands as an unheralded classic of '00s indie music.

“Runner” by Tennis

Song year: 2019

Denver indie-pop husband-and-wife duo Tennis seamlessly blends '80s new wave and '70s disco on their track “Runner.”

The dreamy quality of “Runner” is a trademark of Tennis, one that's helped the group stand out since their 2011 debut and continues to entertain indie audiences.

“Gospel for a New Century” by Yves Tumor

Song year: 2020

Afropunk singer Yves Tumor is equal parts art-rock and neo-soul singer. His outlandish style and genre-bending aesthetic make a perfect pairing on 2020's standout “Gospel For a New Century.”

The world might not be ready for Tumor, but indie music fans will find his sound incredibly refreshing.

“A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend

Song year: 2008

Vampire Weekend burst onto the scene with “A-Punk,” and the indie music world would never be the same.

Taking inspiration from traditional African music and '70s art-rock, “A-Punk” was just the beginning for a band that would help shape indie music for the '00s.

“Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John

Song year: 2006

Swedish indie group Peter Bjorn and John had an international hit with their whistle-laden single “Young Folks.”

The infectious melody and driving dance beat of this indie song are irresistible. Since its release, the track has found its way into dozens of films and commercials.

“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala

Song year: 2012

Australia's Tame Impala has made a career of trafficking in indie psychedelia, starting with their 2012 single “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”

The song features a strong rhythm coupled with a swirling blend of guitars. It serves as a sonic mission statement for the future Coachella headliners.

“My Girls” by Animal Collective

Song year: 2009

Arpeggiated synthesizers, call and response vocals, and tribal-inspired drumming patterns swirl together in Animal Collective's hypnotic “My Girls.”

The track was the first single from their acclaimed album Merriweather Post Pavillion and was named the song of the year by influential indie site Pitchfork.

“Reflecktor” by Arcade Fire

Song year: 2013

Arcade Fire became one the biggest names in the indie rock scene through a steady stream of excellent albums in the '00s.

Their streak continued with 2013's Reflektor. The title track's sprawling seven-minute dance groove features David Bowie on backing vocals and production by LCD Soundsytem's James Murphy.

“A Pillar of Salt” by The Thermals

Song year: 2006

Scrappy Portland punks The Thermals released a ferocious barrage of guitars and religious imagery on their single “A Pillar of Salt.”

With their lo-fi ethos and catchy songwriting, The Thermals eschewed their era's timid indie aesthetic and kept punk alive for a new generation.

“Here Comes Your Man” by Pixies

Song year: 1987

When the Pixies shot the music video for “Here Comes Your Man,” the band elected not to lipsynch along to the track. Instead, they opened their mouths wide.

The Pixies are weird and wild. They set the stage for the grunge and alternative bands of the '90s with their indelible sound.

“Take a Walk” by Passion Pit

Song year: 2012

Passion Pit utilizes a heavy four on the floor drum beat on their indie electronica stomper “Take a Walk.”

The song's catchiness is in stark contrast to its tale loss. Passion Pit's dance hit follows the story of a businessman on the verge of losing it all.

“When I’m With You” by Best Coast

Song year: 2010

Punk, surf, and doo-wop collide on Best Coast's beach inflected “When I'm With You.”

The song's sunny burst of power chords and reverb are the perfect complements to those who are love or sun drunk.

Best Coast would inspire a surge of surf-inspired indie bands in the '00s.

“Go Outside” by Cults

Song year: 2011

Don't be surprised to find that Cults isn't a metal band — instead, the New York group plays an infectious brand of indie-pop.

Their song “Go Outside” uses ethereal synthesizer sounds and a chiming xylophone to achieve the modernly retro sounds on “Go Outside.”

“Sedona” by Houndmouth

Song year: 2015

Houndmouth's brand of indie-folk grew into a mature classic pop sensibility on the band's sophomore album Little Neon Limelight.

“Sedona” is the standout track from the album with group harmonies that beg for a sing-along. With a song this catchy, who would deny them?

“Coming Down” by Dum Dum Girls

Song year: 2011

The Dum Dum Girls' “Coming Down” is a perfect blend of Mazzy Star and Stone Roses with its '90s shoegaze sound updated with modern sensibilities. 

The song's slow tempo and crushing guitars are well suited for its downtrodden lyrics' that compare drug abuse to love.

“California” by Delta Spirit

Song year: 2012

Delta Spirit added another entry into the long list of songs about the Golden State with 2012's “California.”

With ethereal layers of reverbed guitar and buzzy synth bass, Delta Spirit's soaring background vocals and overly distorted guitars whip the song into an arena-ready anthem.

“Lean Into Life” by Petey

Song year: 2021

Petey's unique blend of electronica and emo is at once catchy and earnest.

With “Lean Into Life,” this blend of earnest dancefloor fodder finds Petey playing life coach. The lyrics implore the listener to try their best, even in the face of emotional turmoil.

“My Kind of Woman” by Mac DeMarco

Song year: 2012

Mac Demarco has one of the more unique guitar tones in indie music. Many guitarists of his era tend to lean into reverb, but Demarco has embraced chorus effects to achieve a trademark jangle.

In “My Kind of Woman,” Demarco's jangling guitars perfectly compliment the synthesizer's higher tones, making the song's mellow tempo sound angelic.

“Never Ending Game” by Angel Dust

Song year: 2020

Angel Dust's hardcore background lends their indie rock songs an energetic feeling through unique song structures.

In “Never Ending Game,” acoustic guitars and bassy synths fill in for the typical punk-styled onslaught of electric guitar breakdowns. The fresh and catchy sound is the perfect marriage of earthy and aggressive.

Top Indie Songs Of All Time, Final Thoughts

As long as there's a mainstream, indie music will be around. Indie bands remind us that music is an art form, an alternative to the mass-produced money grabs of major labels and licensing deals. Without indie artists, we would only be listening to commercials.

Whether you're looking for folk, pop, rock, or electronica, indie music has your style covered. We hope you enjoyed our list of the best indie songs. Now go rock out!

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