The top 10 best indie bands of all time forged something new from old rock and roll. Empowered by the do-it-yourself ethics of punk rock, these indie bands added melody and musicality to the mix, carving out a niche outside the mainstream, but with nods to the pop-oriented past. Whether formed from the ashes of hardcore bands or inspired to pick up their instruments by indie's 80's pioneers, the top ten best indie bands of all time have made an undeniable impact on the face of modern music.
- Fugazi–The most fiercely independent band of all time, Fugazi is an easy choice to top the list of the top 10 best indie bands of all time. What gets lost in the discussion, however, is how innovative their music remained up until the end. Adding dashes of anthemic rock and groovy funk to hardcore punk, Fugazi created a style all their own that is often imitated and never truly duplicated.
- Hüsker Dü–Though they began as a hardcore punk band caring for nothing more than blistering speed, elements of 60's pop and psychedelia began to creep in, making them one of the first, and best, American indie bands of all time. Seminal albums released on independent label SST included "Zen Arcade," "New Day Rising," and the breakthrough "Flip Your Wig." Their single "Makes No Sense At All" from "Flip Your Wig" was one of the first indie videos shown on MTV.
- Joy Division–Making use of darkness and space like no one ever before, Joy Division defined post-punk and helped influence British indie for the decades to follow. As the band morphed into New Order following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis, they brought dance to college radio. Their influences remain timeless.
- The Smiths–The masters of mope rock's influence cannot be denied. The Smiths are truly one of the top ten best indie bands of all time. Their guitar jangle can be heard in many bands today.
- Spoon–The only still-existing band on the list, Spoon are the torchbearers for indie in 2000. Marrying power pop to a punk attitude and the swagger of classic R&B, Spoon is the perfect indie band for the post-modern era. They offer experimentation in a palatable package.
- Pavement–Pavement was defined angular riffing that nodded to punk and college rock, but plenty of classic rock power. These lovable slackers practically defined indie in the 90's, making them a shoe-in for any list of the best indie bands of all time. Pavement also spawned two more classic indie bands: The Silver Jews and The Jicks.
- Sleater-Kinney–The best band from the Riot Grrrl Movement, Sleater-Kinney transcended feminist anger to make indie rock unite listeners of all types. No band has mixed the personal and political in an effective way since. Their break up seemed before its time, but they leave behind a perfect catalog of passionate, powerful indie rock.
- X–One of the first American punk bands to cross over and gain a broader audience, X's mix of anger and Americana made them one of the best indie bands of all time. Their move towards rockabilly and country helped lead to another movement in American indie, alt-country. Bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and Wilco would follow.
- Belle & Sebastian–The softer, bookish side of indie is best represented by the twee Scots of Belle & Sebastian. Their seminal album, "If You're Feeling Sinister," helped bring "record collector rock" back to college radio. Since, they have continued to make great records with equal nods to twee UK pop and Motown R&B.
- Godspeed You Black Emperor–The instrumental, epic side of indie was never done better than by Godspeed You Black Emperor, who close out the list of the top 10 best indie bands of all time. Godspeed's soundscapes may be closer to an orchestra than the sloppy rock of the indie 80's, but their spirit puts them on the list. Wordless anarchist anthems never sounded so good.
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