The Best Indie Bands & Artists

Over 19.9K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Indie Bands & Artists

Before the genre became mainstream (which in itself is paradoxical) indie bands meant that a particular group was signed to an independent record label. Over time, indie music, and thus, the best indie bands, have come to be defined as a particular sound that strays from the mainstream and experiments with new sounds, melodies, and lyrics. Making some of the best indie songs of 2018, many of the top indie rock bands do remain loyal to the labels that took a chance on them when they were up-and-comers and stay on independent labels. Most good indie bands (and fans of the genre) are proud to say that they've eschewed the mainstream and have maintained their freedom as an indie artist. It's a great perk to have, and all of the best indie rock bands may not have the biggest album sales - but by retaining their indie cred, it allows them to become popular beyond the scope of indie music.

So, what are the best indie bands? Any list of of indie bands has to include the likes of The Strokes, Alt-J, Cage the Elephant, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and Florence and the Machine. These indie bands are singers widely known for their popularity and bringing indie music to the mainstream. They've headlined arenas and festivals and even with this widespread success, they're true to their indie ethos and remain the best indie rock bands.

That said, it's up to you to determine what are the best indie bands - whether old classics or indie bands popular today. If you know indie music, feel free to chime in and vote on this list. This list answers the questions "who are the best indie bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest indie musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular indie musicians that you might've heard of.

Most divisive: Alabama Shakes
Ranked by
  • The Cure
    2,485 votes

    Emerging from the post-punk scene in the late 1970s, this influential group's unique blend of gloomy lyrics and melodic tunes has made them a staple in the world of indie music. Known for their lead singer's haunting voice and iconic look, they've inspired countless musicians and gained a dedicated fanbase over their decades-long career. Their ability to evolve their sound while staying true to their roots has solidified their place as one of the most important bands in alternative music history.

  • Joy Division
    2,176 votes

    As pioneers of the post-punk movement, this British band's dark and introspective sound captivated audiences in the late '70s and early '80s. Despite only releasing two albums before their tragic end, they left an indelible mark on the music world with their innovative use of synthesizers and haunting lyrics exploring themes of isolation, despair, and love. Their influence can still be heard today in countless indie acts that followed in their footsteps.

  • Gorillaz
    2,416 votes

    This groundbreaking virtual band introduced the world to a unique fusion of alternative rock, electronica, hip-hop, and pop that defied genre boundaries. The brainchild of a famous frontman from another beloved indie band, they quickly rose to prominence thanks to their inventive animated music videos and compelling storytelling. As a result, they've enjoyed widespread popularity while also earning critical acclaim for pushing the envelope both musically and visually.

  • Pixies
    2,910 votes

    Formed in the mid-1980s, this American band's innovative mix of surf rock, punk, and noise-pop helped set the stage for the alternative rock explosion of the '90s. With catchy hooks, dynamic shifts between quiet verses and loud choruses, and cryptic lyrics delivered by a distinctive vocalist, they've amassed a loyal following throughout their career. Their trailblazing sound has inspired numerous artists across multiple genres, making them a cornerstone of indie music history.

  • Radiohead
    5,184 votes

    Regarded as one of the most innovative and influential bands in modern music, this English group has consistently pushed the boundaries of what rock can be since their formation in the late '80s. Their willingness to experiment with electronic elements, unconventional song structures, and thought-provoking themes has earned them critical acclaim and a devoted fanbase worldwide. As pioneers in alternative music, they've paved the way for countless artists to challenge conventions and forge their own unique paths.

  • Arctic Monkeys
    7,410 votes

    Hailing from Sheffield, England, this modern indie rock powerhouse burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s with their razor-sharp lyrics and infectious guitar riffs. They quickly gained a massive following through online grassroots promotion, eventually becoming one of the biggest British bands of their generation. Their continued success and evolution as musicians have solidified them as key players in the indie rock landscape.