The term “Indie Rock” is undeniably tricky. We challenge anyone to definitively define what is and what is not indie rock--you will fail. For the purposes of compiling this list we’ve decided to use a combination of hard and fast rules and gut instinct. Our hard and fast rules are listed below, but as for gut instinct—you just kind of have to know. For example: John Oates put out a rock record called Phunk Shui
on an indie label, however, in no way should Phunk Shui
be mistaken for indie rock. Likewise, Black Flag put out many seminal punk albums on SST, but we’re not talking about punk or grunge or classic post-kraut-rock, we’re talking about indie rock. Are Black Flag really indie rock? Not to our ears.
With that in mind, we squeezed the minds of our music editors (who fought and screamed at each other over omissions, inclusions, and rankings) to deliver you this, our list. If you’ve got complaints (and we know you will), bring it to our message board below. You can argue about whether Sub Pop is really an indie label, about why we should make an exception for Weezer, or about why we chose Unrest’s Imperial f.f.r.r. instead of Perfect Teeth—whatever you want. We’d love to hear what you think.
Here are the hard and fast rules:
• One album per artist.
• No EPs or singles, this list is about albums.
• No greatest hits collections or compilations of previously released tracks.
• Nominations must have been originally released on an independent label. Albums released on indies which were later acquired and/or re-released by majors are allowed (like Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, originally released by a pre-1989 major label merger Enigma Records).