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30 Best Indie Songs of All Time (Greatest Indie Anthems)

December 14, 2023
Best indie songs of all time

I’ve curated a collection of the best indie songs of all time, each one showcasing the unique, often underrated brilliance of independent music artists.

This article is a celebration of the creativity and diversity in the indie music scene, highlighting tracks that have left a lasting impact.

Top indie songs of all time

  • “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division
  • “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys
  • “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand
  • “Cut Your Hair” by Pavement
  • “Midnight City” by M83
  • “Wolf Like Me” by TV On The Radio
  • “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
  • “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service
  • “My Girls” by Animal Collective
  • “New Slang” by The Shins

1. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division has an unmistakable sound and an unforgettable melody. 

This track was released in 1980 and has been recognized by fans and critics alike as a great song that is worthy of inclusion on any indie song’s playlist.

2. “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys

The song was released in 2006 as the band’s first single and quickly gained popularity in the UK, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart. 

The song’s success helped to establish the band as one of the leading acts in the UK’s indie rock scene at the time. 

The song features fast-paced, energetic guitar riffs, driving drums, and witty, sarcastic lyrics delivered in the distinctive style of lead singer Alex Turner.

3. “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand

This great song was released as a single from their self-titled debut album in 2004 and quickly became one of the most recognizable indie songs ever created.

The track combines a catchy melody and pulsing rhythms, with the perfect mix of funk and punk elements, making it a must-have on any indie songs playlist. 

Vocalist and frontman Alex Kapranos has an incredibly distinctive voice and really shines on this track.

4. “Cut Your Hair” by Pavement

“Cut Your Hair” is beloved by many and gained traction with its memorable chorus and clever lyrics. 

The lead singer, Stephen Malkmus, draws on his personal experiences with this song to tell a story about letting go of a love interest that was “all for the show”. 

The energetic tempo and catchy chords give the listener a sense of freedom and independence from their former lover.

5. “Midnight City” by M83

The singer and producer Anthony Gonzalez created a powerful and emotional synth-pop track that has endured in the indie music world. 

The song is driven by a pulsing bass line and driving percussion, while Gonzalez’s signature falsetto soars over the mix.

It is an incredibly catchy song with strong hooks and sing-along moments, making it one of the best songs released in the last decade.

6. “Wolf Like Me” by TV On The Radio

The song features intense, driving percussion, a pulsing bassline, and a soaring chorus that builds to a climax. 

The lyrics, delivered in a passionate and intense vocal style by lead singer Tunde Adebimpe, touch on themes of primal instinct and animalistic desire. 

The song’s lyrics are abstract and open to interpretation, but they add to the song’s overall sense of raw energy and intense emotion.

7. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes

This song features on The White Stripes’ 2003 album, Elephant.

The song’s bassline has been described as “driving” and “insistent”, and it quickly became one of the most recognizable and memorable basslines in rock music. 

The lyrics, sung by Jack White, are cryptic and abstract, and the song’s overall mood is intense and brooding. 

Despite this, the song has a contagious energy that makes it a popular choice for fans of alternative rock.

8. “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service

Released in 2003, this catchy indie rock song has been cherished by many since its release. 

Written by the talented singer and musician Ben Gibbard, this song speaks to those who feel like they’re “treading water in a sea gone dry”. 

With the help of Jimmy Tamborello and Jenny Lewis, this heartfelt song quickly became one of the best songs on The Postal Service’s only studio album, Give Up.

9. “My Girls” by Animal Collective

“My Girls” was an instant success for Animal Collective, helping to establish the band as one of the leading acts in the experimental pop genre. 

The song’s upbeat rhythm, ethereal vocals, and dense, psychedelic soundscape have made it a staple of the band’s live shows and a popular choice for use in film and television soundtracks.

10. “New Slang” by The Shins

The Shins included this song on their 2001 album, Oh, Inverted World.

“New Slang” features an acoustic guitar, gentle percussion, and a melody that is both bittersweet and uplifting. 

The lyrics, sung by James Mercer, are introspective and reflect on the passage of time and the sense of loss that can come with growing older. 

Despite its melancholic themes, the song has a hopeful, optimistic energy that makes it a popular choice for fans of indie rock.

11. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire

Released in 2004, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” was the lead single off Arcade Fire’s debut album, Funeral.

The song is one of the most popular indie songs of all time, thanks to its lyrics and powerful production. 

The song has been praised for its story-telling and has become a staple on any indie songs playlist. 

It won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 2006 and was also included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

12. “Ball and Biscuit” by The White Stripes

The song was released in 2003 as a part of the album Elephant

“Ball and Biscuit” is characterized by its heavy, distorted guitar riff, pounding drum beat, and upbeat, energetic rhythm. 

The lyrics are a mixture of boastful, bluesy storytelling and more introspective, personal reflections, and Jack White’s raw, emotive vocal performance is a standout feature of the song.

13. “Time to Pretend” by MGMT

Released in 2007 as the first single from their debut album Oracular Spectacular, “Time to Pretend” is one of the most famous indie songs. 

The album went on to become a commercial success and was nominated for multiple awards. 

It’s no surprise that “Time to Pretend” remains one of the best songs of MGMT.

14. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty

The song is a perfect example of the brilliant singer’s signature style and has been dubbed one of the best indie songs.

With its upbeat melodies and insightful lyrics, it’s no surprise that “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” has found a spot on countless indie song playlists. 

The song was nominated for the Best Song award at the 2013 European Music Awards and has since become a fan favorite.

15. “Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett released this song from her 2015 album The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

The song is a laid-back, indie rock track that showcases Barnett’s clever, witty lyricism and distinctive vocal style. 

It also earned Barnett an ARIA Award for Best Female Artist in 2015. 

16. “The Funeral” by Band of Horses

This track was released in 2006 on the band’s debut album, Everything All the Time

With its sweeping guitar lines, catchy melodies, and powerful lyrics, it’s no wonder this became such a well-known indie song. 

It has even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song.

17. “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers

“Motion Sickness” features a hauntingly beautiful piano melody and an atmospheric sound that creates a sense of intimacy and introspection. 

The lyrics are a confessional meditation on heartbreak, loneliness, and the struggles of life on the road as a touring musician. 

Bridgers’ powerful, emotive vocal performance and the song’s delicate, introspective sound have made “Motion Sickness” a popular choice for fans of indie rock and singer-songwriters.

18. “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

This song was released on February 10th, 1998 as the lead single from Neutral Milk Hotel’s second studio album of the same name. 

The song is credited as being written by lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Mangum, who is considered to be one of the most talented singer-songwriters of all time. 

The song is characterized by its upbeat sound and energetic feel, making it one of the most memorable indie tracks ever.

19. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers

“Mr. Brightside” is considered to be a classic of the indie rock genre and one of the defining songs of The Killers’ career. 

With its driving, upbeat sound, and memorable lyrics, it remains a beloved song among fans of the band and fans of alternative and indie rock in general. 

The band released this song in 2004 as part of their album, Hot Fuss.

20. “Last Nite” by The Strokes

“Last Nite” is among The Strokes’ best songs and a worthy addition to any indie songs list. 

From their debut album Is This It, the song was a hit single and launched the group into international stardom. 

Lead singer Julian Casablancas has a unique voice that carries throughout the track as he sings about a fading relationship.

21. “Reptilia” by The Strokes

Released in 2003 as part of their critically acclaimed album Room on Fire, the song quickly became a fan favorite and earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance in 2004. 

Lead singer Julian Casablancas has been praised for his skills as a vocalist and songwriter, and for helping to create an anthem for independent music fans everywhere with this song.

22. “The Distance” by Cake

“The Distance” was one of the first breakthrough hits for Cake, and it helped to establish the band as one of the leading voices in the alternative rock scene of the late 1990s. 

The song’s upbeat, energetic sound and catchy chorus made it a popular choice for alternative rock radio stations and music videos, and it quickly became a favorite among Cake’s growing fanbase.

23. “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People

Foster The People is an American indie pop band from Los Angeles, California. 

The group is made up of Mark Foster, Cubbie Fink, and Mark Pontius. 

Their sound combines elements of indie rock, dance-pop, and electronic music.

“Pumped Up Kicks” was an instant hit when it was released in 2011. 

It was featured on the band’s debut album Torches, which reached number eight on the Billboard 200 chart. 

The song itself became a global phenomenon, topping charts in countries around the world, including the United States and Australia. 

24. “Breezeblocks” by alt-J

“Breezeblocks” is a haunting, yet beautiful song by alt-J. 

The track starts with gentle acoustic guitar and slowly builds in intensity, incorporating electronic beats and other electronic sounds as it progresses. 

The lyrics, which are sung in a unique falsetto style, are cryptic. 

They have been interpreted as a plea from a man to his partner, begging her not to leave him and promising to protect her from harm.

25. “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem

This song is from LCD Soundsystem’s second album, This Is Happening, released in 2010. 

The track was produced and written by James Murphy, the lead singer, and mastermind of LCD Soundsystem. 

Murphy is known for his mix of dance and post-punk elements, and “Dance Yrself Clean” is no exception.

With its hypnotic synth beats, infectious melodies, and it’s signature spoken-word vocal delivery, this track quickly became a fan favorite and is considered one of the band’s signature songs.

26. “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear

The lyrics of “Two Weeks” are somewhat abstract and open to interpretation, but they are generally thought to be about the feeling of longing and nostalgia. 

The song’s lyrics are delivered in a dreamy, ethereal manner, with lead singer Ed Droste’s vocals serving as the centerpiece of the track.

27. “Lua” by Bright Eyes

“Lua” is a prime example of Conor’s distinctive songwriting style, and it has become a staple of his live shows. 

The song has been covered by several artists and has been featured in a number of films, TV shows, and commercials. 

Despite its popularity, “Lua” remains a deeply personal and intimate song, and it continues to be a favorite among fans of Bright Eyes.

28. “Cannonball” by The Breeders

This song was released as the lead single from the band’s second studio album, Last Splash, in 1993. 

“Cannonball” is a fast-paced, energetic rock song that features the band’s signature distorted guitar sound, tight rhythm section, and Kim Deal’s distinctive vocal style. 

It was a breakthrough hit for The Breeders, reaching the top 20 of the US alternative charts.

29. “This Charming Man” by The Smiths

The song’s lyrics are a mix of wit, irony, and social commentary, with Morrissey addressing themes of love, desire, and political disillusionment. 

The song’s upbeat melody and driving rhythm, combined with Morrissey’s deadpan delivery, have been widely praised by critics and fans alike. 

“This Charming Man” was a commercial success for The Smiths, reaching the top 30 of the UK singles charts.

30. “Penelope” by Pinback

Pinback is known for its meticulous approach to songwriting and production, and “Penelope” is no exception. 

The song was recorded with care and precision, and its sound is polished and professional. 

This attention to detail has earned Pinback a reputation as one of the best independent rock bands of the last two decades.

Best Indie Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts

After reading through our list, you will have seen there is a vast array of fantastic indie songs available for music lovers to enjoy. 

From upbeat tunes to more relaxed vibes, there is a song for everyone here.

The list of the best indie songs of all time is a great starting point, showcasing the talents of some of the industry’s most gifted singers and musicians. 

These timeless classics have been chosen for their success, influence, and memorability.

Similar Articles:

Best Rock Songs

Best Bands of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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