What are the best indie rock albums of all time?

Velvet_lWhat could be more deliberately argument-provoking than a list of the top indie rock discs of all time? After all, even trying to get agreement on what "indie rock" means is to instigate among purists disputes so vehement and arcane that they would put Middle East peace talks to shame. So I won’t stoop to taking the bait proffered by Blender magazine’s new list of "The 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever" (the mag’s Top 10 listed after the jump). I’ll just stand back and let others squabble while I watch with bemused detachment…

Aw, heck, who am I kidding?

Let me just say that, for all the editors’ good taste in selecting many of my favorites and yours for inclusion, picking Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted for No. 1 smacks of the same reflexive laziness that routinely lands Sgt. Pepper at No. 1 whenever Rolling Stone makes its greatest-albums-ever lists. And throwing into the top 10 a ringer like the 1969 self-titled album by the Velvet Underground (pictured) really muddies the waters unfairly. Yes, it’s a massively influential album that’s surely on every indie rocker’s playlist, but to place at No. 7 an album that predates Indie As We Know It by a good 15 years is to suggest that you’re really not taking your own task (and the parameters you’ve set for yourself) at all seriously and are just picking discs you think are cool. That’s fine if you want to call the list something else, but I bet you guys could come up with an indie-er indie rock top 10 off the top of your heads. Make me proud, PopWatchers.

Blender’s 10 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever

10. The Smiths, The Smiths
9. Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers
8. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
7. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground
6. Arcade Fire, Funeral
5. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
4. R.E.M., Mumu
3. The Replacements, Let It Be
2. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
1. Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted


Comments (47 total) Add your comment
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  • Tony

    Yeah, but Slanted is the best indie rock record ever. It’s actually my favorite record of all time, indie or not. My 10 indies?
    10. Violent Femmes – “Violent Femmes”
    9. Minutemen – “Double Nickels on the Dime”
    8. Spoon – “Kill the Moonlight”
    7. Rilo Kiley – “The Execution of All Things”
    6. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea”
    5. They Might Be Giants – “Lincoln”
    4. Dinosaur Jr – “You’re Living All Over Me”
    3. Pixies – “Doolittle”
    2. The Replacements – “Let It Be”
    1. Pavement – “Slanted and Enchanted”

    • Julia Jordan

      In the Aeroplane Over the Sea should definitely be in the top ten.

  • Robert

    While there are a lot of albums on that list I agree with, here’s my personal top 10:
    10. Galaxie 500 – On Fire
    9. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
    8. Arcade Fire – Funeral
    7. Nirvana – Bleach
    6. Spoon – Gimme Fiction
    5. Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville
    4. Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted
    3. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
    2. The Replacements – Let It Be
    1. REM – Murmur

  • Kathleen

    I’m honestly not sure what an accurate description of indie would be; but if it means what I always thought it meant, shouldn’t there be an Ani DeFranco record on there somewhere?

  • Scott P

    Wow, that’s a pretty tough one. I’d disagree with Blender’s list in saying anything released by Interscope could be considered Indie, but that’s just me. I lean alot more on the more modern stuff as you can tell…
    10. Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
    9. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
    8. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
    7. Bright Eyes – Lifted, or the Story’s…
    6. Sigur Ros – Aegatis Byrjun
    5. Death Cab for Cutie – The Photo Album
    4. Arcade Fire – Funeral
    3. Yo La Tengo – Electr-o-Pura
    2. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
    1. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

  • Anonymous

    Where’s the love for the Stone Roses?
    Their self-titled CD deserves a spot in the top 10…

  • Tony

    The Stone Roses just missed the cut for me. I’ve got them at 11.

  • Mike

    They put the winner at #11 – “Double Nickels On The Dime” by The Minutemen.

  • Anonymous

    “Bemused” means “baffled,” blogger. Perhaps you’re trying to tell us something.

  • Tony

    From Webster’s Dictionary:
    Main Entry:
    be·muse Listen to the pronunciation of bemuse
    \bi-ˈmyüz, bē-\
    transitive verb
    1 : to make confused : puzzle, bewilder
    2 : to occupy the attention of : distract, absorb
    3 : to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement or

  • furry_tom

    10. Modest Mouse – Lonesome Crowded West
    9. X – Wild Gift
    8. Frog Eyes – The Golden River
    7. Danger Mouse – Gray Album
    6. Desaparecidos – Read Music/Speak Spanish
    5. Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith
    4. Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches
    3. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
    2. Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
    1. Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Aeroplane Over the Sea

  • furry_Flanders

    It’s a bemusement park!

  • Rick

    Another vote for “In the Aeroplane…” by N.M.H. at #1. The definition of an “indie” album. Jeff Mangum, where are you?

  • Chardylove

    Obviosly I’m a little new school..Although the classics clearly influence my taste
    11. Shout Out Louds- Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
    10.Ringside- RingSide
    9.Goldspot- Tally of the Yes Men
    8.The Early November- The Rooms Too Cold
    7.Jose Gonzalez- Veneer
    6.Stars- Set Yourself On Fire
    5.Imogen Heap- Speak for Yourself
    4.Neko Case- Fox Confessor
    3.The Smiths- Louder Than Bombs
    2.Ryan Adams- Gold
    1.Rogue Wave- Descended Like Vultures

  • drella66

    They have the #1 album totally correct…Also up there is Liz Phair “Exile in Guyville”, Neutral Milk Hotel “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”, Sleater-Kinney “Call the Doctor”, Built to Spill “There is Nothing Wrong with Love”, Archers of Loaf “Icky Mettle”

  • Anonymous

    Beck – “Mellow Gold”
    Radiohead – “The Bends”

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