Nothing can induce a potent combination of nostalgia and rage like the time-honored top 100 list. All the major music magazines have come out with at least one or two, and Rolling Stone has about a one-per-month quota. But this latest one comes from a slightly unlikely source -- Amazon. Apparently they don't just sell you music. They might actually know a little something about it, too. Maybe.
The Amazon list came equipped with a read-this-before-you-write-a-strongly-worded-letter clause, listing all the requirements and stipulations the Amazon music editors placed on albums worthy of the list.
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.
Here are the hard and fast rules:
• One album per artist.
• No EPs or singles, this list is about albums.
• No greatest hits collections or compilations of previously released tracks.
• Nominations must have been originally released on an independent label. Albums released on indies which were later acquired and/or re-released by majors are allowed (like Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, originally released by a pre-1989 major label merger Enigma Records).
With the only one album per artist rule, there are definitely a few that make you scratch your head -- why Death Cab's We Have The Facts instead of Plans, why does Sufjan Stevens fall higher than Bright Eyes, and both of them higher than Arcade Fire's Funeral, which is higher than Husker Du?
But when it's coming from Amazon, we know two things that bring us solace. No. 1, it's an online marketplace ranking indie records, and thus any discrepancy should be taken with that proverbial salt grain. No. 2, the only reason something like this exists on a site like Amazon is to boost sales. And any outlet that wants to boost sales of indie rock? Pretty much okay in our book.
You judge for yourself. Here's the top 20, you can see the full listing here.
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