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Top 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of 2000-2009

Updated: Mar 29


Top 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of 2000-2009

(Pictured - Interpol)

The first ten years of the 21st century witnessed a creative boom in indie rock from multiple directions, encompassing the post-punk revival, the explosion of garage rock, and the expansion and creation of many indie labels. The late '80s and early '90s were marked by an explosion of influential indie rock, emerging from jangle-pop, noise rock, and slacker rock directions with bands like Pavement, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and The Jesus and Mary Chain highlighting independent, boundary-breaking music. The early 2000s experienced a golden age of guitar-forward indie rock, notably distinct from much of the indie rock that followed 2010, and the dream pop and indie folk that dominated the late '90s. To celebrate the creative explosion that was early 2000s indie rock, we have ranked what we believe to be the top 100 indie rock albums between 2000 and 2009. The albums selected were either released by independent labels or from bands primarily considered indie rock. Certain indie folk, dream pop, experimental, and indietronica albums have been included if they either have noticeable rock undertones or were released by artists primarily considered indie rock. For a broader look at indie rock, be sure to check out The Top 100 Indie Bands/Artists of All Time or The Top 100 Indie Rock Songs of All Time.

The title of the finest indie rock album of the period was essentially a toss-up between Interpol's debut Turn on the Bright Lights and The Strokes' debut Is This It. Although in terms of influence and legacy, Is This It edges out Turn on the Bright Lights, in terms of quality, the Interpol debut takes the top spot. Turn on the Bright Lights features some of the most groundbreaking post-production, alongside some of the most introspective and emotive songwriting of the modern era. The New York-based rockers delivered the OK Computer of the 2000s with their debut album, shocking listeners and creating a completely timeless record. Featuring Paul Banks' unique vocal style, paired with Daniel Kessler's masterful guitar playing and Carlos D's melodic bass playing, the record is comprised of 11 uniquely perfect songs, all with a modern, post-punk sound never heard before. Carlos D steals the show on tracks like Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down, and Daniel Kessler unleashes his unique and brilliant guitar sound on tracks like PDA and The New. Whether the comparisons to the records are sent in the Joy Division direction or the Radiohead direction, the comparisons are warranted, and Turn on the Bright Lights is a complete masterpiece of indie rock, equally warranting being considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time.


Jumping between Is This It and Turn on the Bright Lights for the title of the greatest indie rock record of the era was no easy task, with both records being otherworldly. Although Is This It was nudged to the second spot by a fraction of a hair, the legacy of The Strokes' debut album has been resonating throughout indie rock ever since. Last year, we named the record's most well-known single, Last Nite, the greatest indie rock song of the post-2000 world, with Someday also making the list. Upon its release in 2001, The Strokes reignited the spark in indie rock, following a relatively stale couple of years, with their blend of punk and garage rock. The guitar-forward nature of the band, paired with relatively accessible song formats, changed the world of indie rock forever and ignited a new golden age of indie rock: the post-punk revival. More than twenty years later, this album remains the quintessential indie rock album of the 21st century for millions of listeners, and for good reason.


3. Funeral - Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire rose to prominence in the 2000s with their eclectic mix of symphonic rock, baroque rock, and art rock. The band released their debut album Funeral in 2004 to immediate critical acclaim, receiving near-perfect marks from American, Canadian, and British music magazines. The band utilized ambitious and equally impressive levels of musical layering, featuring instruments like the xylophone, string arrangements, accordion, recorder, and double bass, alongside a handful of other unorthodox instruments for indie music. Nevertheless, the neo-traditional instrumentation, combined with electric guitar and bass, turned out to be masterful. Tracks from the record, such as Wake Up and Rebellion (Lies), have become some of the most well-known and respected pieces of indie rock. The record was a dramatic game-changer in indie rock, significantly altering artists' perceptions of their expectations as rockers.

4. Illinois - Sufjan Stevens

The mighty 75-minute long 2005 concept album Illinois has since become regarded as one of the most impressive musical feats of the 2000s. The record channeled folk-style songwriting with orchestral arrangements. For the most part, it consists of mellow tunes on the topics of localized events in Illinois and, to a lesser extent, Christianity, mixing folk with chamber pop to create impressive arrangements. On the record's most well-known track, Chicago, Sufjan Stevens puts forth towering walls of sound, creating a faster paced, big city aura, mixed with intermittent periods of ambient noise and choral expressions. Although the "out-there" nature of this record may not be everyone's cup of tea, the level of brilliance is unmistakable.

5. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco

The alt-country giants Wilco released their most decorated and perhaps most rock-forward record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002, consisting of 11 tracks predominantly crafted by frontman Jeff Tweedy. Songs like Jesus, Etc. have since become instantly recognizable across alternative and indie spheres, along with even folk and country spheres. With an album cover depicting The Marina City Complex in the city of Chicago, the album artwork has since become one of the most recognizable and iconic album covers of the 2000s. The record exhibited a deeper sense of experimentation than earlier Wilco efforts, resulting from more abstract ideas from Tweedy and the sound engineers working on the album. Wilco had received a generous amount of praise for previous records like Summerteeth, but nothing came even close to the level of acclaim from both fans and critics that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot received.


Upon release in 2006, The Arctic Monkeys quickly became one of the biggest, if not the biggest name in British rock music. Their debut was an explosive revitalization of hard-hitting British music, nodding back to The Libertines but with a special focus on the life of a young adult, going out to bars, getting into trouble, and just trying to figure it all out. This record marked the starting point of years of SERIOUS commercial success for the Arctic Monkeys. The powerful guitar, angry, yet confident vocals, and textbook drumming resulted in a near-perfect album release, filling a void in the indie world that was previously unnoticed. The songs on this album have never gotten old and resonate just as strongly in 2024 as they did in 2006. The lads from Sheffield delivered 41 minutes of deeply authentic, timeless punk-fueled rock with an intensity that even topped The Libertines, somewhat similarly sounding powerful debut.

7. Elephant - The White Stripes

The White Stripes dominated early 2000s American indie rock to a caliber that perhaps could only be topped by The Strokes. Following their under-the-radar, yet solid self-titled debut album, The White Stripes embarked on a tear through American indie rock, finding the perfect midpoint between the garage rock revival and the post-punk revival. The band's fourth release, Elephant, gave the world the universally known track Seven Nation Army, which has since become one of the most epic indie rock songs of all time. Deeper cuts from the record like Black Math and You've Got Her in Your Pocket also stand out as exceptional songs. Crafted by the then-husband-and-wife duo, Jack and Meg White, the two created just about all of the sound on the record, with Jack writing all but two of the tracks. Jack's uniquely bluesy guitar tone generated a range of sounds that left a significant impact not only on the indie world but on the mainstream rock world as well.


8. Mass Romantic - The New Pornographers

Of all the records in our top ten, none flew under the radar more so than the debut album by the Canadian supergroup, The New Pornographers. Mixing indie rock with power pop, the band crafted a collection of songs reminiscent of the brightest and loudest '70s arena rock icons. The album failed to chart in the US and Canada, but due to positive reviews and word of mouth, the band still embarked on a sold-out tour to promote the album before winning a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album in the following year. Songs on the record have since received comparisons to the likes of The Beatles, T. Rex, Todd Rundgren, and The Beach Boys, noting how the band has borrowed from years of successful musical formulas. Mass Romantic is an incredibly catchy and striking album, filled to the brim with power chords and sharply crafted pop songs, introducing a style of indie rock different from anything else before it.


Released during a period where Post-Britpop and pop rock were taking the forefront in British music, Up the Bracket injected power and confidence back into British rock music. Coming about a year after The Strokes kicked off the post-punk revival in the United States, Up the Bracket was the perfect British response to The Strokes' debut. The incredible chemistry between Carl Barat and Pete Doherty was showcased no better than in their captivating guitar technique. This typically involved one playing a steady, driving guitar pattern to form the rhythm line, while the other played a more abrasive, spontaneous melody on the lead. The trading of who would play lead and who would play rhythm added deeply to the sheer complexity of Up the Bracket, creating an unpolished, rough-edged sound that epitomized the modern post-punk sound. Memorable tracks like Time for Heroes, Up the Bracket, and I Get Along cemented The Libertines in musical history, long after listeners realized they were the biggest thing at the time in British rock music.


A creation from frontman James Mercer's insomnia, The Shins' third release, Wincing the Night Away, exhibits the band's most rock-forward and musically ambitious record. Songs like Australia echoed the Pacific Northwest's bouncing musical nature of the brighter tracks from their previous release Chutes Too Narrow, whereas songs like Sleeping Lessons and Sea Legs venture in a new, more ambitious direction utilizing loops and vocal effects to create a spacey, ominous, room-filling sound. As strong as all the tracks on the record were, the one that shines the brightest is the wall-of-sound behemoth, Phantom Limb, harnessing perhaps not only the best outro but also the best chorus of the era, just begging the listener to sing along. Marking a noticeable sonic change from Chutes Too Narrow, on Wincing the Night Away, The Shins ventured farther down the rock 'n' roll path, adding their flare to contemporary American indie rock. Although Wincing the Night Away may not have received the same amount of initial praise as the records above, make no mistake, it is one of the greatest indie rock albums of all time, and with each year that passes, more and more people start to realize that.

11. You Forgot It In People - Broken Social Scene

12. More Adventurous - Rilo Kiley

13. Return to Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio

14. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning - Bright Eyes

15. Apologies to the Queen Mary - Wolf Parade

16. Fever to Tell - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

18. The Moon and Antarctica - Modest Mouse

19. Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia - The Dandy Warhols

20. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out - Yo La Tengo

21. Picaresque - The Decemberists

22. Kill the Moonlight - Spoon

24. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix

26. Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground - Bright Eyes

28. White Blood Cells - The White Stripes

29. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

31. Dear Science - TV On The Radio

33. Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective

34. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - Flaming Lips

35. Transatlanticism - Death Cab For Cutie

36. Give Up - The Postal Service

38. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

39. Antics - Interpol

40. Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors

41. Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem

42. Murray Street - Sonic Youth

43. The Glow Pt. 2 - Microphones

44. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

45. The Hour of Bewilderbeast - Badly Drawn Boy

47. Z - My Morning Jacket

48. It's Blitz - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

49. One Beat - Sleater-Kinney

50. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon

51. Let's Get Out of This Country - Camera Obscura

52. Fevers and Mirrors - Bright Eyes

54. Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea - PJ Harvey

55. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT

56. Guero - Beck

57. Two Dancers - Wild Beasts

58. Boxer - The National

59. The Reminder - Feist

60. xx - The xx

61. Boys and Girls in America - The Hold Steady

63. Echoes - The Rapture

64. The New Fellas - The Cribs

65. OK Go - OK Go

66. Show Your Bones - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

67. The Photo Album - Death Cab For Cutie

68. United - Phoenix

69. Love For the Streets - Caesars

70. Twin Cinema - New Pornographers

71. Figure 8 - Elliott Smith

72. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

73. The Con - Tegan & Sara

74. Michigan - Sufjan Stevens

75. The Meadowlands - The Wrens

76. Cage the Elephant - Cage the Elephant

77. Dear Catastrophe Waitress - Belle & Sebastian

78. Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll - Art Brut

79. Rather Ripped - Sonic Youth

80. Gimme Fiction - Spoon

81. The Libertines - The Libertines

82. Oh, Inverted World - The Shins

83. A Weekend in the City - Bloc Party

84. Under the Blacklight - Rilo Kiley

85. Myths of the Near Future - Klaxons

86. The Crane Wife - The Decemberists

87. You Could Have It So Much Better - Franz Ferdinand

88. Modern Guilt - Beck

89. Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

90. Broken Boy Soldiers - The Raconteurs

91. Challengers - New Pornographers

92. Ignore the Ignorant - The Cribs

93. Sumday - Grandaddy

94. It's Never Been Like That - Phoenix

95. Separation Sunday - The Hold Steady

96. Icky Thump - The White Stripes

97. From a Basement on the Hill - Elliott Smith

98. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear

99. My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura

100. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood - Neko Case


 

Just Outside the Top 100

101. First Impressions of Earth - The Strokes

102. Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes

103. Microcastle - Deerhunter

104. Waterloo to Anywhere - Dirty Pretty Things

105. Change - The Dismemberment Plan

106. The Sunlandic Twins - Of Montreal

107. Fantasies - Metric

108. The Age of the Understatement - The Last Shadow Puppets

109. The Rhumb Line - Ra Ra Riot

110. Destroyer's Rubies - Destroyer

112. Our Love to Admire - Interpol

113. At Mount Zoomer - Wolf Parade

114. The Seldom Seen Kid - Elbow

115. Girls Can Tell - Spoon

116. Blacklisted - Neko Case

117. We All Belong - Dr. Dog

118. Stay Positive - The Hold Steady

119. Employment - Kaiser Chiefs

120. Howl Howl Gaff Gaff - The Shout Out Louds

121. The Tyranny of Distance - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

122. Things We Lost in the Fire - Low

123. Manners - Passion Pit

124. Shut Up I Am Dreaming - Sunset Rubdown

125. Carnavas - Silversun Pickups


Top 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of 2000-2009

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