Our Ultimate Indie Anthems
Published on 26 June 2020
Indie is a tough genre to define. Initially used to describe bands or artists on independent labels in the 70's, it's since evolved and developed into a sound of its own. Whether front and centre in the mainstream or hiding in the underground, stripped-back guitar rock is always refreshing to hear in a world where music just gets increasingly over produced and complicated. We figured since there are so many indie classics we'd run through a few of our favourites and let you guys check them out. Have a listen below!
Stone Roses - Mersey Paradise
Let's start off our journey in Manchester, shall we? The Stone Roses have become kind of indie gods to a lot of young bands with the jangly, psychedelic guitar sound of their first album and while this track didn't make the album, they don't come much more sparkling, groovy and just plain cool. Mersey Paradise was initially released as a B side to She Bangs the Drums and pairs dark, mysterious lyrics with Beatles inspired guitar parts in a concoction that sounds incredible and is seriously satisfying to play! Hailed as something of a Manchester anthem, the sound of this track harks back to 60's bands like The Byrds but still sounds as fresh and vibrant today.
Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)
There might be about 40 of them on stage but what a sound Arcade Fire can make when they come together! Almost like some kind of travelling indie cult, the band have a devoted following and have even been praised by a certain Mr Springsteen for their songwriting! This early track of theirs is just fantastic with a relentless bassline that drives the whole track forward. We absolutely love how this tune builds into the huge sound that the band are known for. With a great video to match, this track was a shoe-in for this list.
The Killers - All These Things That I Have Done
Few indie bands can match the impact and commercial success the Killers found when they released their first two albums Hot Fuss and Sam's Town. Laced with subtle synth parts, big epic guitar riffs, epic choruses and incredibly sharp lyrics, the band really took the world by storm, somehow developing a kind of stadium sound even while they were still playing in bars. This track is the perfect example of how high they set their sights with a huge refrain that sticks in your head for days. The track was actually written about television host Matt Pinfield who was the A&R that tried to sign the band for Columbia Records. He told them about how he helped to mentor soldiers returning from war in his spare time and inspired Brandon Flowers to write the line 'I got soul but I'm not a soldier'. Every day's a school day huh?
The Strokes - Someday
Few indie bands are as well quoted and praised as the Strokes. The band played a large part in helping to define what people now regard as the genre's sound with their raw, garage sound and infectious pop hooks. Albert Hammond Jr's unstoppable guitar parts paired with Julian Casablancas throat-ripping vocals are about as special a combination as you can get and their first album Is This It quickly became nothing short of a modern classic. We've chosen Someday for the catchy guitar parts, tremendous vocals and overall sound but really if you're an indie fan and haven't checked out the full album then you know what tonight's homework is! Have a listen below and have a go at playing it yourself, this track is really straightforward and satisfying!
American Football - Never Meant
Are American Football an Emo band? Kinda, but who cares, their sparkling clean riffs most definitely gain them access to this list. Their debut album is haunting, uplifting and fragile all at the same time with the first track Never Meant leading into it perfectly. We cannot get enough of the guitar in this track which is both complex and totally tasteful with a gorgeous clean tone to match. If you fancy a challenge then pick up your axe and get it learned cause it really is a beautiful track to have up your sleeve!
Arctic Monkeys - A Certain Romance
While they may have drifted into slicked back hair, cool guy leather mode, the Arctic Monkeys first couple of albums reignited a bit of an indie fire in the charts. Borrowing the lazy garage feel of the Strokes and combining it with something a little sharper and punkier, their debut Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not (mouthful right?) became something of a bible for the next generation of indie artists. The band were fuelled by Alex Turner's witty, cheeky and vivid lyrics and A Certain Romance closed the album perfectly. We absolutely love the feel of this track from the bouncy bassline to the epic choruses and lovely clean guitar parts. It does a great job of summing up the feel of the scene at the time and is a total anthem for any Monkey heads!
Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
Speaking of cool guys, yes we know Sonic Youth aren't strictly indie so much as noisy, amazing, alternative weirdness. However, their track Teenage Riot from the seminal album Daydream Nation just sums up the sound so well we thought we'd throw it in as a front runner on this list. Teenage riot stands out against the band's less conventional tracks with more than a touch of pop swagger but don't be fooled, it still features wacky tunings and some awesome guitar parts. Moore plays it in GABDEG while Ranaldo rocks GGDDGG, just to make it awkward enough for all of us trying to learn it! The track is about as perfect an example of the indie sound as you'll ever find so have a listen and if you feel adventurous, fire on the rest of Daydream Nation and be prepared to get loud!
Superchunk - Driveway to Driveway
Superchunk may not be a household name but their skate influenced, stripped back indie sound has gathered a cult following worldwide. Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the band were part of the universities' noise rock scene but were definitely a bit more laid back and accessible than many of their contemporaries. Now over 30 years strong and releasing on independent labels the full time, these guys are the definition of a traditional hardworking indie band and we absolutely love them for it. We'd thoroughly recommend delving into their back catalogue but we'll start off with Driveway to Driveway from the album Foolish. This nostalgic track is everything that indie should be - slightly chaotic, raw and full of emotion with great guitar parts.
Archers of Loaf - Web in Front
We weren't going to stop with only one Chapel Hill band, I mean come on! Remember the noisy guys we mentioned in the last section? Well, here they are! Archer's of Loaf's rambling, thrown together sound is definitely veering more into the underground of indie music; a little like a darker version of Pavement led by singer/songwriter Eric Bachmann. Bachmann's lyrics and guitar parts are often disjointed and never without some killer, janky, driven tones. This track was probably their biggest hit and the first song on their cult classic album Icky Mettle. As with most of their music, it's a little all over the place but topped with fragile, raw and honest lyrics and a great hook. These dudes are your favourite indie band's favourite indie band, make sure you give them an ear!
The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now
We're finishing off the list with another bonafide classic from the noughties. Short of the Arctic Monkeys, has anyone really exploded onto the scene like the Libertines? Shambolic, brilliant and the epitome of sex, drugs and rock n roll, Carl Barat and Pete Doherty were indeed the men who would be kings. Their sound absolutely destroyed everything in its path and was so raw and powerful that it established the lads as British indie royalty. While their flame may have burned a little too bright, the band have held onto legions of fans and can put on the type of show you wish all rock gigs felt like. This track was actually written about their struggles as a band and was kind of brutally honest when you break down the lyrics. We can never get enough of that extended intro and outro which just feels like a snapshot of the early 00's. Indie with a punk edge, an attitude and the Royal Guard jackets to boot, you can't go wrong.
We hope you enjoyed checking out some of our very favourite indie classics! The genre is pretty open to interpretation and we're sure there's loads more we could've thrown in but we reckon the artists mentioned above make up a good picture of what the genre means to us. We're always keen to check out more guitar-driven goodness though so drop us a comment let us know what your favourite tracks are! Oh and let us know which of these got your head nodding too. Until next time folks!