Every now and then some magazine or other sort of publication decides to trot out their “100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums Of All Time.” The last of note we wrote about was Blender (RIP, dudes) in 2007, so it’s ostensibly time for the folks at Amazon to show their own. Before you guffaw, the list has strengths. Like someone finally remembered Jawbreaker and Unrest’s Imperial f.f.r.r. … albeit the “Deluxe Edition.” (It’s clearly a site designed to sell you these very records, so grains of salt, please.) As with all lists, there are head scratchers, i.e. the Postal Service beating Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, the Replacement’s Let It Be, and the Fall, etc., by a landslide. The criteria:

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.

Important to note that there was only one album per artist, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, and Sebadoh (Liz Phair is cool with this rule), plus no singles or EPs or comps or greatest hits. Dig in:

100 Dangerous Magical Noise – The Dirtbombs
99 Passover – The Black Angels
98 To Survive – Joan As Police Woman
97 Ultimate Alternative Wavers – Built To Spill
96 Trans Am – Trans Am
95 The Discovery Of A World Inside… – The Apples In Stereo
94 Waiter: ’You Vultures!’ – Portugal The Man
93 Alligator – The National
92 Horses In The Sky – Silver Mt. Zion
91 Gallowsbird’s Bark – The Fiery Furnaces
90 Louden Up Now – (!!! Chk Chik Chick)
89 The Milk-Eyed Mender – Joanna Newsom
88 The Power Out – Electrelane
87 Cure For Pain – Morphine
86 Worn Copy – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
85 Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
84 Hearts Of Oak – Ted Leo/Pharmacists
83 Save Yourself – Make Up
82 The Last Match – The Aislers Set
81 The Sea and the Bells – Rachel’s
80 The Ugly Organ – Cursive
79 De Stijl – The White Stripes
78 Nothing Feels Good – The Promise Ring
77 The Smell Of Our Own – The Hidden Cameras
76 Jane From Occupied Europe – Swell Maps
75 Furnace Room Lullaby – Neko Case
74 The Curtain Hits The Cast – Low
73 The R&B Of Membership – The Delta 72
72 II & III – Camper Van Beethoven
71 Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating… – Spiritualized
70 The Fawn – The Sea And Cake
69 Feast of Wire – Calexico
68 Oh, Inverted World – The Shins
67 Will You Find Me – Ida
66 Milk Man – Deerhoof
65 Coquelicot Asleep In The Poppies… – Of Montreal
64 Rejoicing in The Hands – Devendra Banhart
63 Destroyer’s Rubies – Destroyer
62 TNT – Tortoise
61 Neon Golden – The Notwist
60 Daddy’s Highway – The Bats
59 Set Yourself On Fire – Stars
58 Fabulous Muscles – Xiu Xiu
57 Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes – TV On The Radio
56 The Decline And Fall Of Heavenly – Heavenly
55 The Mysterious Production of Eggs – Andrew Bird
54 Pussy-Whipped – Bikini Kill
53 Sing No Evil – Half Japanese
52 Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express – The Go Betweens
51 Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Stereolab
50 And Don’t The Kids Just Love It – Television Personalities
49 Wild Love – Smog
48 Agaetis Byrjun – Sigur Ros
47 Red House Painters I – Red House Painters
46 Advisory Committee – Mirah
45 How Memory Works – Joan Of Arc
44 On Fire – Galaxie 500
43 On – Imperial Teen
42 Mass Romantic [Remastered] – The New Pornographers
41 Gulag Orkestar – Beirut
40 This Nation’s Saving Grace – The Fall
39 You Forgot It In People – Broken Social Scene
38 I Am A Bird Now – Antony & The Johnsons
37 When Your Heartstrings Break – Beulah
36 Our Endless Numbered Days – Iron & Wine
35 Person Pitch – Panda Bear
34 Let’s Get Out of This Country – Camera Obscura
33 Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
32 Let It Be [Expanded Edition] – The Replacements
31 Repeater + 3 Songs – Fugazi
30 Zen Arcade – Hüsker Dü
29 24 Hour Revenge Therapy – Jawbreaker
28 Lift Your Skinny Fists… – godspeed you black emperor!
27 Yellow House – Grizzly Bear
26 The Glow Pt. 2 – The Microphones
25 Black Candy – Beat Happening
24 Funeral – Arcade Fire
23 Moon Pix – Cat Power
22 Diary – Sunny Day Real Estate
21 Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil… – Bright Eyes
20 I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One – Yo La Tengo
19 Kill the Moonlight – Spoon
18 Give Up – The Postal Service
17 Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney
16 No Pocky for Kitty – Superchunk
15 I See A Darkness – Bonnie “Prince” Billy
14 We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes – Death Cab For Cutie
13 Michigan – Sufjan Stevens
12 Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth
11 69 Love Songs Volume 1 – The Magnetic Fields
10 Bakesale – Sebadoh
09 Either/Or – Elliott Smith
08 Surfer Rosa – Pixies
07 If You’re Feeling Sinister – Belle & Sebastian
06 Slanted & Enchanted – Pavement
05 Imperial f.f.r.r. (Deluxe Edition) – Unrest
04 Exile In Guyville – Liz Phair
03 Spiderland – Slint
02 In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel
01 Bee Thousand – Guided by Voices

Yellow House > MPP, for those keeping track. You can see it all in context at (True, some of the records we chose for our Friendly Deals are on this puppy, too. Including #1. What good taste we have.)

Comments (356)
  1. nick  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    glad to see Beulah was shown some love

  2. My “gut instinct” says Radiohead should be on this list.

  3. III > Bakesale

  4. Vivian Girls> Joanna Newsom & The Fiery Furnaces
    Hahahaha, how preposterous.

  5. This list is surprisingly relevant. But what makes Michigan a “better indie album” than Illinois? Because I just don’t think makes sense any way you spin it.

  6. I’ll give them am B+ for albums included–you can’t receive an A if you don’t include PInback.

    And they can have C+ for order.

    Extra credit for not making a list tat makes me want to puke and sticking to their strict self imposed “indie rock” guidlines.

  7. i love how it says “no punk” and then the first band i read is The Dirtbombs and then Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Husker Du, The Replacements, and Sonic Youth all crack the top 30.

    • Post-punk, my friend. The stuff indie rock was built on.

      • Jawbreaker played pop punk. Dirtbombs play garage punk. fugazi and husker du were more post-hardcore than post-punk. sonic youth was the closest thing to post punk. replacements were pretty much a college rock band with punk roots.

        the operative word here is “punk” and all of those bands have a huge part in punk rock’s history.

        • onceler  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 0

          also, Bikini Kill is punk, pretty much flat-out. why not the 1st Le Tigre album? that was a great album.

  8. sufjan illinois > sufjan michigan… and vivian girls should not be on this list

  9. Grobian  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 -1

    There aren’t 100 great indie rock records. Maybe twenty five. Only one of them (“Mass Romantic”) is on the list above. Would’ve been four, if they’d picked “Blacklisted” for Neko, “13 Songs” for Fugazi, and “Highway Strip” for Mag Fields.

    You could argue that “13 Songs” isn’t a real album, if you were a moron. But you’d have to be a well-informed moron, and that would overqualify you for assembling these stupid lists.

    • @m@z0n SuX LoL!  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

      Repeater + 3 is far superior to 13 Songs. This is a matter of fact, not of debate.

      • Despite the fact that Repeater has, like, five or six classic Fugazi tracks (let’s see: “Repeater,” “Merchandise,” “Sieve-Fisted Find,” “Turnover,” and “Blueprint”) there’s something about that album that gets a little too “samey.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrific album, but 13 Songs has a little bit more going for it in the dynamics department.

        With that said, The Argument is there best.

    • andrew  |   Posted on Mar 31st, 2009 0

      I always feel like I’m the only one who likes End Hits. I think it’s a fantastic album. Does anyone agree?

    • kasey b.  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 0

      Agreed on “Blacklisted” over Neko’s “Furnace Room…” That’s a puzzling choice. Both are great albums, but Neko really hit her stride with “Blacklisted.” And I have to wonder how Vivian Girls made that list, but the Breeders or Throwing Muses are nowhere to be found. But I guess that lists are made to be debated. There’s still some good stuff here.

  10. Curt  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Why are the Vivian Girls on here? Not only is it a very recent album, they certainly don’t deserve to be on this list. And the gull at putting them any where near Ted Leo! That’s blasphemy! Better than Built To Spill! Come on!

  11. Stereogum blogger using the almighty all-knowing “greater than” symbol with hopes of discouraging the potentially frivolous potentially copious use of the “greater than” symbol in the comments < Amazon making a list of their 100 favorite indie albums < Amazon making a list of their 100 favorite indie albums and putting them all on sale < me having lots of sex < me lying about having lots of sex < SKITTLES: Transplant the Rainbow

  12. You wanna start shit? I wanna start shit.

    Merriweather Post Pavilion > Person Pitch?

    I’d have to disagree, myself.

  13. Triple f  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 +1



  15. meh.  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 +1

    No Loveless, eh? Ballsy (and foolish).

  16. In The Aeroplane beaten by fucking guided by voices…BLASPHEMY

  17. matt  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    I have never heard of Imperial f.f.r.r. (Deluxe Edition) – Unrest.

  18. bob  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Why are the Vivian Girls on this list? Is it possible that the people who wrote this do not listen to and/or like music? Is it possible that these are the only indie records they’ve heard? Is it possible that they only read Stereogum?

  19. preston.ossman  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    what the fuck is merriweather post pavillion doin on that list?
    i like the album, but over song tong? over feels?

    also there is a suspicious lack of modest mouse
    no lonesome crowded west? come on

    i donno if i trust amazons judgment here

  20. Yashin  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Interesting that British bands don’t seem to qualify as indie rock unless they’re twee Glaswegians… (not that I have anything against ‘Tweegies’ – Let’s Get Out Of This Country and If You’re Feeling Sinister are both great records).

    Why Spiritualized and the Fall, and not Cocteau Twins or Teenage Fanclub?

  21. ChrisD  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    The fact that Sufjan Stevens makes any best-of list at all is comical, to say the least.

  22. Jon Bon Jovi  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    I hope all of these sell for $4.99 since this is sort of a promotion/advertising thing.

  23. where is Q AND NOT U. ‘different damage’ should be on this list. pretty good list though. glad to see silver mt zion get some love. criminally underrated band. also on dismemberment plan ‘emergency and I’ was the predecessor to every dancy indie band (and better than them)…should be on.

  24. Alligator over Boxer…uhh, no! Also, Moon Pix over You Are Free?? And no Lonesome Crowded West or At Dawn makes me sad.

  25. Xaa  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    I dig the “one album per artist” rule, but I have to say it’s quite strange that “Ultimate Alternative Wavers” is their choice to represent Built to Spill. Really?! Ever hear of a little album I like to call “Keep It Like a Secret”?

  26. joe  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Say what you will about the list, at least they picked honest-to-god indie rock albums. Although…Vivian Girls, really? Isn’t it a bit too soon to be canonizing them?

  27. nathan  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    haha Vivian Girls are on this list..there goes its credibility. I’m pretty sure that the band was concieved as a social experiment to see how many zombie tools fall for the ridiculous amount of unfounded hype that is contaminating modern indie rock and the blogosphere so associated with it. I mean, their songs are cool if you’re into talentless idiots picking up instruments and putting out horrible recordings of the experience. Wait…were we just talking about No Age?
    p.s. You Forgot it in People should be closer to the top 20.

    • please don’t compare Vivian Girls to No Age. Or please listen to more music so you know what you’re talking about. Thanks.

      • Donnie  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

        good point, Bearface…because no age and vivian girls are two compleeetely different kinds of unoriginal, uninteresting garbage.

  28. At last  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    It’s official! Grizzly Bear (27) > Animal Collective (33). Amazon has finally settled the great stereogum debate.

    • wow  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

      Never thought I’d agree with amazon, but I’m wiht them on this one!

    • william  |   Posted on Mar 31st, 2009 0

      I am really glad to see yellow house up there. Although I understand why the new album is ridiculously amazing, I am with people who say they haven’t changed that much. It’s just that for me this is a good thing. Yellow House has a lot of intricacies that Veck has, they are just more deeply ingrained.

      Built to spill should have been higher.
      I personally think the Glow Pt. 2 should have been higher.

      no Turn on the Bright Lights?
      no Modest Mouse record?
      no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? (or A Ghost is Born)

      Overall though, the list could be worse.

  29. Iron and Wine only #36? Ugh.

  30. That’s a good question, Big Red.

  31. Seriously, I think they tried to pick albums that people probably wouldn’t own by artists that were already popular. The purpose of the list is to sell albums. And the only people interested in it are people that are already interested in this kind of music. So this list comes off as a “If you like *Artist*, Check out *Album*”. Examples: “Slanted & Enchanted”, “Surfer Rosa”, “Michigan”, “No Pocky for Kitty”, “Alligator”, “Ultimate Alternative Wavers”. All good albums, by great artists, but not what most people would typically already own. The only thing that doesn’t fit with this theory is “Meriweather Post Pavilion”. Amazon should have tried to point out to all of the band wagoners that Animal Collective has older albums that are just as good/better, rather than making them think this is seriously there peak.

    • ChrisD  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

      I’m with you for the most part. However, I have to disagree on Slanted & Enchanted. Not only is that Pavement’s best album, but it is also likely their best known and most critically lauded release. Otherwise, I think you have a valid point.

    • rgr_moore  |   Posted on Apr 3rd, 2009 0

      hah, maybe they have an overstock of MPP that they wanna get rid of ;)

  32. ian g  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    not only did they get the album wrong (perfect from now on, please), but how is built to spill only #97?

  33. brian  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    too much emo.

  34. Eric  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    This seems short sighted. Are these the albums that are overstocked in Amazon’s warehouse?

  35. ferg  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    in the aeroplane over the something something licorice should be number 1, not 2.

    but it’s great to see beulah getting some much deserved love!

  36. I’m not familiar with a lot of these albums (read: not indie enough), so i guess i should get to listening. I’m a bit confused by Milk Man by Deerhoof. That’s not the album i would have picked by them. The Runners Four or Apple O’ are better in my opinion.

  37. Nacho  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Perfect from Now On and Keep It (and everything after) are on Warner Bros, so I guess that eliminates them. Should have been Love over Ultiimate

  38. Apexa  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Since when is Joanna Newsom indie rock?

  39. Chuck  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Chutes Too Narrow>Oh, Inverted World.

    • Kozy  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

      I completely disagree. Am I the only one that sees a lot of these albums and thinks that’s not even the best album by that band? I would definitely pick The Photo Album over We Have The Facts… and Twin Cinema over Mass Romantic. I like Elliott Smith’s self-titled and Figure 8 better than Either/Or as well. What about Explosions In The Sky or matt pond PA or The Decemberists for crying out loud.

  40. Scott  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    This list is clearly the work of people over 30, ’cause no one else remembers Unrest (sadly). But I still like Cath Carroll (unfortunately out of print) better than Imperial f.f.r.r.

  41. Really? No love for Dinosaur Jr…? I love Sebadoh too, but Lou’s roots should be remembered too.

  42. Pleasantly surprised with this list. Nothing too get too worked up about.

  43. Lee  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Beat Happenings – Black candy…….come on You Turn Me On is miles better.

  44. i am better than everyone

  45. andrew  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    I looked a few times and didn’t see any Modest Mouse. I hope I’m mistaken. Also they did a so-so job with the artists, a bad job with the albums, and an even worse job with the order. I liked that Xiu Xiu was on there though

  46. what about danse macabre?

  47. Glad they picked We Have the Facts and We’re Voting yes. It tends to be overlooked by Trans and Photo Album.

    • id have to disagree, alot. dont get me wrong, great album. but it lacked the power and emotion of transatlanticism. and im very glad plans was never meantioned. :/

  48. Andrew  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    The west just got less crowded and more lonesome.

  49. Sam  |   Posted on Mar 30th, 2009 0

    Pretty solid list. The only glaring omissions are MBV, Modest Mouse and The Unicorns.

  50. This is just a promotional tool in sheeps clothing.

    Amazon is great at marketing.

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