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Gimme Indie Rock: 20 Bands That Shaped the Sound

Photo Credit: Bryan Zimmerman

The history of indie rock is as varied as the subgenre. The music has no definitive geographical origin, emerging almost simultaneously across the country, often in smaller and overlooked cities. Bands from St. Paul, Minnesota took over college radio, and Boise, Idaho suddenly became a hotbed for emerging rock bands. But the best thing about indie rock is its loosely defined sonic parameters. This looseness allows for the wide-ranging diversity you’ll see on this list, though the scene’s lack of racial diversity is an issue with which the industry is just beginning to reckon.

Few subgenres could accommodate so many different takes on a style, but indie rock has always been defined more by circumstance than sound. It allows for more substantial gaps between bands and what they sound like.  To celebrate the history of indie rock, we compiled a list of 20 excellent acts that emerged in the first and second waves of the era.