“Indie” is a big word. It’s hard to define, and, as you’ll see from our top 10 Indie Songs of 2000-2009 below, it doesn’t necessarily have a distinct style.
It’s more of an ethos than anything, and all of the tracks below have tons of it. When you think about indie at the beginning of the 21st century, these are the tracks that encapsulate what it was all about.
10. Sleater Kinney – Jumpers
At this point, Carrie Brownstein might be better known for Portlandia than for her band, Sleater Kinney, but just listen to “Jumpers” for one of the finest pure indie rock songs of the aughts.
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
This song has become iconic since its release in 2004. Included in the video game Rock Band, covered in live sets by The White Stripes, Radiohead, Ted Leo, and scores of other musicians, “Maps” is perhaps the perfect indie song.
8. The Kills – Last Day of Magic
With its dissonant guitars, industrial beat, male/female vocal harmonies, “Last Day of Magic” blends punk, indie, and pure pop into an unforgettable track.
7. The Decemberists – The Mariner's Revenge Song
Who can turn a steampunk, 8-minute song about being eaten by a whale into an epic tale that begs to be listened to on repeat? The Decemberists. There’s an entire novel buried somewhere in the lyrics of this track.
6. Feist – 1234
This is what pure love sounds like, especially the last 40 seconds of the track.
5. Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
From the very first seconds of “Rebellion (Lies),” you have a driving bass line and kick drum which signal that something epic is coming. Then the song slowly but surely builds to one of the best choruses ever written.
4. The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist
The Avalanches took sampling to new heights on Since I Left You (2000), perhaps most so on the track, “Frontier Psychiatrist.” It also led to one of the most absolutely bonkers music videos of all time.
3. M.I.A. – Paper Planes
This track only becomes better known with time—having been in the films Slumdog Millionaire, Pineapple Express, and Hancock, performed by scores of rappers, punk bands, and other artists, and featured in video games, “Paper Planes” is M.I.A.’s best known work to date. You only need to listen to the chorus once before it becomes forever stuck in your head.
2. Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine
Perhaps the finest post-rock track of all time, “Your Hand in Mine,” is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful instrumental pieces ever written. It is stark, uplifting, and immensely powerful–perhaps made even more so from its association with various incarnations of Friday Night Lights.
1. Wilco – Jesus, Etc.
Just the lines “tall buildings shake/voices escape/singing sad sad songs” alone can effectively summarize post 9/11-era America–an especially daunting realization when considering the song was recorded before the attacks (though released after). All of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a masterpiece, but this track specifically is one that will forever be associated with the era.