Top 20 Quintessential Indie Songs 1990’s-Present

The twenty songs that have defined the indie sound in the past two decades-ish

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea — Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)
Instantly recognizable and even meme-worthy

New Slang —The Shins (2001)

Because Natalie Portman said, “You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life; I swear.”

Someday — The Strokes (2002)
Julian Casablancas. Nick Valensi. Albert Hammond, Jr. Fabrizio Moretti. Nikolai Fraiture.

Mr. Brightside — The Killers (2003)
Though garnering comparisons to the band mentioned before with an equally fatal name, The Killers stands on its own with this song that will take you right back to the early Millennia
Maps — Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)
Karen O’s unapologetic edge is important for the strong female indie rocker movement
Piazza, New York Catcher — Belle & Sebastian (2003)
Setting the foundation for twee, and also continuing to remind us that the Scots have good music genes
Float On — Modest Mouse (2004)
A Pacific Northwest crew that I listened to in high school when I was a little grungy but not really
Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels) — Arcade Fire (2004)
With their organs and violins, Arcade Fire is an indie music darling, and this song in particular encapsulates their style in Funeral
I Will Follow You into the Dark — Death Cab for Cutie (2005)
They came into the dimly-lit limelight to create anthems for creative, sensitive types hanging out in the heartbreak section of record stores
Chicago — Sufjan Stevens (2005)
Symphonic, soft-singing, and emotional (and sometimes hip hop? Sisyphus (aka S / S / S)), Sufjan makes a his own mark in indie music
Chelsea Dagger — The Fratellis (2006)
Heard in (association) football stadiums around the EU
Fidelity — Regina Spektor (2006)
She’s quirky. She’s catchy. She’s enthralling. She’s New York, but she’s not Norah Jones.
Skinny Love — Bon Iver (2007)
Not just any Bon Iver song, but this one in particular deserves a spot. It was Birdy’s breakthrough single, and has been covered by musicians from Ed Sheeran to everyone on Youtube.
1234 — Feist (2007)
Because iPod nano commercials are what launches indie artists into the mainstream. Wow, remember iPod nanos?!
Kids — MGMT (2008)
Ushering in the Golden (Y)Ears of modern indie rock
Oxford Comma — Vampire Weekend (2008)
The preppy cool-nerds join in with their lyrical suaveness
Sleepyhead — Passion Pit (2008)
Another East Coast college crew messin’ around on synths
The Next Time Around — Little Joy (2008)
Sadly, sometimes the indie band of our dreams only comes around once
Mykonos — Fleet Foxes (2009)
Hailing from the indie heartland of Seattle, they come out of the Pacific Northwest woods not as grunge rockers, but choral folk hippies (though they’ve denied the hippie label)
Breezeblocks alt-J (2012)
An awesome wave, indeed. alt-J woo the world with their la-la-las and oooohs
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