Music

The Best Indie Bands & Artists 

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Updated October 2, 2019 159.6k votes 15.6k voters 433.1k views 576 items

List Rules Bands that are on independent music labels - bands that started on indie labels, but later signed with big labels are okay too

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. If you notice that a band isn't on this list and should be, feel free to add them. 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.

list ordered by
1
The Smiths is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Smiths were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1982. The group consisted of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. Critics have ...more

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The Best Smiths Albums of All Time #256 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #173 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

2
Arctic Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Arctic Monkeys is an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards) ...more

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The Best Arctic Monkeys Songs of All Time #452 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #208 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

3
Radiohead is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Radiohead are an English rock band formed in Abingdon-on-Thames in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, ...more

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The Best Radiohead Songs of All Time #447 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #71 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

4
Tame Impala is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Tame Impala is the psychedelic recording project of Kevin Parker, from Perth, Australia, and signed to Modular Recordings. The band rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of its debut album ...more

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The Best Tame Impala Albums, Ranked #832 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timelisted on List of Famous Bands from Australia

5
Cage the Elephant is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Cage the Elephant is an American rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, that formed in 2006. The group currently consists of Matthew "Matt" Shultz, Brad "Dave" Shultz, Jared ...more

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The Best Cage The Elephant Songs #1,691 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #915 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

6
The Strokes is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Strokes are an American rock band formed in New York City in 1998, consisting of Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond, Jr., Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti. Upon the ...more

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The Best Strokes Songs of All Time #375 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #509 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

7
The Cure is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Cure is an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The band members have changed several times, with guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Robert Smith the only constant ...more

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8
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
muzziac added
The Pixies are an American rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. The group currently consists of founders Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering. Co-founder Kim Deal left ...more

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The Best Pixies Albums of All-Time #262 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #261 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

9
The Killers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
MarioArley added
The Killers are an American rock band formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001 by members Brandon Flowers (lead vocals, keyboards, bass) and Dave Keuning (lead guitar, backing vocals). Mark Stoermer ...more

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The Best Killers Songs of All Time #161 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #181 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

10
Florence and the Machine... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Florence and the Machine (stylised as Florence + the Machine) are an English indie rock band that formed in London in 2007, consisting of vocalist Florence Welch, keyboardist Isabella Summers, ...more

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The Best Florence and the Machine Albums, Ranked #99 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #708 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

11
R.E.M. is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/backing vocalist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe. One of ...more

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#705 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #48 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #34 of 502 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '80s

12
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Joy Division were an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The group consisted of vocalist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris. ...more

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The Best Joy Division Albums of All Time #381 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #290 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

13
Foster the People is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Foster the People is an American indie pop band formed in Los Angeles, California in 2009. The group is composed of Mark Foster, Jacob "Cubbie" Fink, and Mark Pontius. The group's ...more

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14
The Black Keys is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
The Black Keys is an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). The duo began as an independent act, ...more

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The Best Black Keys Albums of All Time #339 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #273 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

15
Arcade Fire is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie rock band, consisting of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with Win's younger brother William Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim ...more

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The Best Arcade Fire Albums, Ranked #440 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #693 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

16
Oasis is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Oasis were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1991. Developed from an earlier group, the Rain, the band originally consisted of Liam Gallagher (lead vocals, tambourine), Paul ...more

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The Best Oasis Songs of All Time #276 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timelisted on The Best English Boy Bands

17
Bon Iver is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Bon Iver () is an American indie folk band founded in 2006 by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon. Vernon released Bon Iver's debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, independently in July 2007. The ...more

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The Best Bon Iver Songs #292 of 1,039 The Worst Bands & Musicians of All Time #23 of 605 The Most Hipster Bands

18
Vampire Weekend is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 2006. They are currently signed to XL Recordings. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Ezra Koenig, ...more

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The Best Vampire Weekend Albums, Ranked #744 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #1,310 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

19
Modest Mouse is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
ShaneBird added
Modest Mouse is an American rock band formed in 1992 in Issaquah, Washington and currently based in Portland, Oregon. The founding members are lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah ...more

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20
Two Door Cinema Club is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Two Door Cinema Club are a Northern Irish indie rock band from Bangor and Donaghadee, County Down, formed in 2007. The band consists of Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday, and Kevin Baird. The band's ...more

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The Best Two Door Cinema Club Albums, Ranked #1,824 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #1,324 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

21
Bastille is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Bastille are an English indie rock band formed in 2010. They began as a solo project by singer-songwriter Dan Smith, who later decided to form a band. The four-piece is completed by Chris ...more

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#1,015 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #28 of 605 The Most Hipster Bands #83 of 465 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singers

22
Blur is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Blur are an English rock band, formed in London in 1988. The group consists of singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Their ...more

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#317 of 2,205 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #538 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #108 of 133 Bands Or Artists With Five Great Albums

23
Gorillaz is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Gorillaz are a British virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. The band primarily consists of four animated members: Stuart "2-D" Pot, Murdoc ...more

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24
Franz Ferdinand is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish rock band formed in Glasgow in 2002. The band's original lineup was composed of Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar, keyboard), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, ...more

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25
Sonic Youth is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Indie Bands & Artists
muzziac added
Sonic Youth was an American rock band based in New York City, formed in 1981. Founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, guitar) and Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals) ...more

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