Top Ten Indie Rock Songs of the Decade
To some, indie rock is an aesthetic, something between Sonic Youth and Pavement that's played by people with in mop-tops and ringer t-shirts with cans of Pabst atop their amplifiers. Others, meanwhile, might define indie rock literally as music recorded and performed by musicians not signed or affiliated with major labels. However you prefer to slice it, here are ten tunes from the past ten years that continue to amaze. Feel free to weigh in with your own picks or tell us that ours are completely whack.
The chills-inducing men of Midlake
10. Jolie Holland "Palmyra" (2008)
She's on an independent label and she (sometimes) plays rock music, but Jolie Holland is really half country and half folk, with a twist of Mission hipster. "Palmyra," a tumblin' folk-rock ballad that alludes to Hurricane Katrina and the narrator's penchant for breaking her own heart and others, brought all of Holland's luminous talents to a fever pitch, from her desperate emotion and charmingly sexy southern vocal stylings to her impressive knack for guileless storytelling.
9. The Warlocks "Shake the Dope Out" (2002)
Recalling classic underground lines of self-abusive desperation such as Swervedriver's "my soul belongs to the dealer now" and the Ramones "I could've been rich/but I'm just digging a Chinese ditch," the Warlocks' "Shake the Dope Out" took Velvet Underground-descendant drug-rock to another level by indulging in hallucinatory lyricism. These guys might need professional help, but we'll enjoy the musical side-effects while they last.
8. Grizzly Bear "Knife" (2006)
"With every blow/comes another lie/you think it's alright/can't you feel the knife?" Brooklyn-based soundscapers Grizzly Bear successfully matched ghostly Beach Boys-esque harmonies and tender, poignant guitars, piano and percussion with casually vicious lyrics in "Knife," one of the highlights of Yellow House, its spellbinding breakthrough LP. It's a magical incantation of hurt that, if provoked, could easily take anything by Nine Inch Nails and softy lull it to death.
7. Spoon "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" (2005)
After about a decade suffering in bargain-bin purgatory, Spoon emerged with Gimme Fiction, a hypnotic sonic accomplishment that became a hipster classic, and "The Beast and Dragon" kicked off the twisted fun with a slow burn. "When you don't feel it at shows, they tear out your soul," singer/guitarist Brit Daniels sings just as the burn becomes a wildfire, "but when you believe they call it rock n' roll." I'm pretty sure that line isn't in the Bible, but it should be.