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Top Ten Indie Music Artists

Updated on May 24, 2009

Top Ten Popular Indie Music Artists

Here's a list of the top ten most popular Indie Music Artists in the United States as chosen by their play count and scrobbles in

Death Cab for Cutie (Source:
Death Cab for Cutie (Source:

1. Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie, commonly referred to as just plain old "Death Cab," is an American indie rock band from Bellingham, Washington. They were formed by lead singer Ben Gibbard in 1997, and have achieved a loyal following of hipsters and emo kids alike.

Some of their top songs are "I Will Follow You Into The Dark," "Soul Meets Body," and "Crooked Teeth."

Popular Indie Albums

  • Transatlanticism
  • Plans
  • Narrow Stairs

2. Modest Mouse

Indie rock purists will definitely scoff at Modest Mouse being labelled as indie, due to their contract with Sony. Regardless, they are still categorized as indie rock. Modest Mouse was formed in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington by Issac Brock, Jeremiah Green, and Eric Judy. Modest Mouse achieved significant mainstream appeal by including their song "Float On" with videogames such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Their lead singer may sound like a goat, but hey it sells.

Popular Indie Albums

  • Good News For People Who Love Bad News
  • The Lonesome Crowded West
  • We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Animal Collective (Source: Daniel Arnold)
Animal Collective (Source: Daniel Arnold)

3. Animal Collective

Originating from Baltimore, Maryland, Animal Collective is a new hip breed of indie rock, sometimes described as psychedellic folk or noise pop. Animal Collective's music is hard to describe as it is often experimental and changes from show to show. Some popular indie songs by Animal Collective are "My Girls," "In The Flowers," and "Summertime Clothes."

Popular Indie Albums

  • Feels
  • Sung Tongs
  • Strawberry Jam

4. The Decemberists

Formed in 2000, The Decemberists are an indie folk band hailing from Portland Orgeon. Their frontman, lead singer Colin Meloy, writes many of the band's whimsical lyrics as heard in "Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect."

Now signed to Capitol Records, The Decemberists have performed alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and have garnered critical acclaim. Their success in the top ten popular indie artists list reflects this.

Popular Indie Albums

  • Castaways and Cutouts
  • The Crane Wife
  • Picaresque

5. The Shins

The Shins debuted in 1997 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and after their critical success with the popular indie rock album Oh, Inverted World moved to Portland, Oregon in 2002. The Shins helped popularize indie music with their "Beach Boy-esque" indie pop sound. Some popular Shins tracks are "New Slang," "Caring is Creepy," and "Australia."

Popular Indie Albums

  • Wincing the Night Away
  • Oh, Inverted World
  • Chutes Too Narrow

6. Wilco

Wilco comes from the Windy City - Chicago, Illinois.  They formed in 1993 upon the breakup of the alternative country band Uncle Tupelo.  Wilco's alternative country has touches of John Lennon and Neil Young, and is largely considered indie rock despite Wilco's relationships with major record labels.

Popular Indie Albums

  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Sky Blue Sky
  • A Ghost Is Born

Of Montreal Leadman Kevin Barnes
Of Montreal Leadman Kevin Barnes

7. of Montreal

Contrary to their name, of Montreal is from Athens, Georgia.  Singer and leadman Kevin Barnes formed of Montreal in 1997, primarily as a Beatles cover band. Barnes began to diverge from his Beatles influence, however, with the critically acclaimed indie pop album The Gay Parade. Of Montreal is part of the Elephant Six Collective, and frequently is associated with fellow Elephant Six bands such as Elf Power and Neutral Milk Hotel. As an of Montreal fan, some songs I recommend are "The Party's Crashing Us," "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse," and "Forecast Fascist Future."

Popular Indie Albums

  • Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
  • The Sunlandic Twins
  • Skeletal Lamping

8. Spoon

Spoon is comes from the home of George W. Bush!  Texas!  Well, Austin, Texas to be exact.  Spoon formed in 1993 and reached fame with "The Way We Get By," when it was featured on The OC.  Spoon has charmed listeners with their indie pop sound and has earned their way into this top ten indie music artist list.

Popular Indie Albums

  • Kill the Moonlight
  • Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Gimme Fiction

9. Architecture in Helsinki

Architecture in Helsinki is from Melbourne, Australia and they are one of the best indie rock/pop bands out there! The band has as many as thirteen members at any given time, and are responsible for such hits as "Do The Whirlwind" and "That Beep."

Popular Indie Albums

  • In Case We Die
  • Fingers Crossed
  • Places Like This

That Beep

10. Panic at the Disco!!1!!!!!

Panic at the Disco is so good!  They are probably the most popular indie music artist in the WORLD!!!!!  My favorite song of theres is "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" it's so emotional and hardcore!!! !!!


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    • kereeves3 profile image

      Karen 4 years ago from Salem, OR

      Gonna have to check out Architecture in Helsinki. The rest of the list is great! Pretty much some of my all time favorite bands from the last couple decades or so.

    • Kevina Oyatedor profile image

      kevina oyatedor 4 years ago

      Love indie music forever. My favorites are Sleigh Bells, The Shins, The Strokes, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Foster the People, Cults, Modest Mouse and I'm looking for more music from Franz Ferdinand. Love Panic at the Disco forever, their first album A Fever You Cant Sweat is awesome.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 6 years ago from Parts Unknown

      I also missed the fact that the list was posted over two years ago. But I'm still surprised that even two years that the Arcade Fire didn't have a bigger profile. Just for interest sake I checked out the current top 10 indie artist according to It is good to note that this is based on their definition of indie:

      1) Florence & The Machine

      2) Lana Del Ray

      3) Gotye

      4) Arctic Monkeys

      5) Foster The People

      6) Bon Iver

      7) The Killers

      8) Kings of Leon

      9) The Strokes

      10) Arcade Fire

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 6 years ago from Parts Unknown

      For those that are critical of the list, it is good to note that the author noted that the list was based on plays and scrobbles. So the list was based specifically on stats. That being said I am surprised that Arcade Fire's plays and scrobbles weren't enough to put them in the top 10, because they seem to have a bigger profile than some of the bands on this list.

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      Lancejl 6 years ago

      No. Arcade fire? Nmh?

    • profile image

      Bradley 6 years ago

      Panic at the disco... *sigh*

    • SerinaSkye profile image

      SerinaSkye 6 years ago

      great list, besides the obvious. nice touch.

    • profile image

      Persongirldepressed. 6 years ago

      i love Foster The People so much ?

    • profile image

      fewlab 7 years ago

      good bands but all this is pop not indie.

    • DaveysRecipeRead profile image

      DaveysRecipeRead 7 years ago

      Animal Collective don't break borders, they don't know what borders are. They're my choice for the band beyond all others (regardless of genre or era). Still can't believe that "safer" could be released as a "B-side" for "Peacebone" or anything else, nothing is as intense. In my opinion Animal collective cannot be matched, nonetheless a fantastic list!

    • profile image

      Rafik Soughou 7 years ago

      hah, like, three people got trolled by #10 so hard

      [insert successfultroll.jpg here]

      very clever sir, and a good list! good tidings to you

    • profile image

      Cassidy 7 years ago

      Panic at the disco?

    • profile image

      TyJames 7 years ago


    • profile image

      Shay 7 years ago

      Animal Collective is the best... in my opinion :)

    • profile image

      holyshit. 7 years ago

      i ROFL-ED at panic at the disco. dude,you're good.

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      7 years ago

      where is MGMT??

    • nekillpack profile image

      Nate 7 years ago from Utah

      love the list, everyone except for panic! where'd they come from? i'm with bananawamma on that one

    • profile image

      meh 7 years ago

      indie music can't really be pinned down with ten bands, there are so many different sub-genres

    • profile image

      :D 7 years ago


      I love Panic at the disco ?

      really a awesome band :D

    • profile image

      BananaWamma 7 years ago

      I was completely digging all of the 1-9 love all of them, and then theres Panic! At the Disco wtf! There are bands way more deserving of that spot like Empires of the Sun or Broken Bells

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      Cody 7 years ago

      Panic! At The Disco lolwut?

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      Will 7 years ago

      Neutral Milk Hotel is where it's at. In the Aeroplane over the sea is the most classic indie album. Ever. Check it out.

    • profile image

      Oscar Jones 7 years ago

      If you like Spoon, you like Or, the whale

    • indilean profile image

      indilean 8 years ago from Mountain View, CA

      This is an interesting topic, the nature of indie music is such that it's always changing and when one band gets signed or moves into a more corporate sound I'm not sure everyone considers them indie anymore.

      Have you heard of Temple Scene? I feel like these guys are going to be the next big indie band, they already got massive exposure through a BMW ad.

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      panic, 8 years ago

      panic at the disco is nothing without Ryan ross

    • profile image

      andie 8 years ago

      great band all of them! I love indie music and this groups really sum up what this kind of music is about :)