Best indie / college rock bands 2010s

For a decade that is only a little over half finished, already enough great indie bands have emerged to compile a top ten list. Whether any worthy additions are yet to come in the next 3 years is still to be determined, but for now, enjoy some of the best the 2010s have had to offer thus far.


10. The Orwells

Still attending high school in the Chicago suburbs, The Orwells put out their first album Remember When at quite a young age. Following the modest success their debut had, the group graduated early in order to pursue a career in the music industry. It seems to have paid off, as their second album Disgraceland landed them an opening act slot on Arctic Monkeys monumental 2014 tour, alongside performances on several major late night television programs. In the fall of 2016, the band announced their latest album, Terrible Human Beings, and are currently on tour in support of the record. The Orwells are still young and new enough to have not broken as big as some of their peers, but based on what they have put out thus far, it seems likely that they will be soon to follow.


9. St. Vincent

The only solo artist to make the list, St. Vincent is the stage name of American singer-songwriter Annie Clark, a talented multi-instrumentalist who studied Berklee College of Music. After a brief stint in Sufjan Stevens’s touring band, St. Vincent broke off solo, drawing her influence from jazz, electronic, and indie. While St. Vincent debuted in the late 2000s, she really found her footing in the 2010s, with her self-titled fourth album debuting in 2014 and being named Album of the Year by multiple music publications, as well as winning her a GRAMMY Award for Best Alternative Album.


8. The xx

Hailing from London, The xx came directly in to fame, winning the Mercury Prize for their debut. Consisting of band members who met at the Elliott School, which also spawned Hot Chip, The xx has received copious critical praise throughout their still young career. The band is staying relevant into 2017, releasing their third studio album I See You and announcing plans to heavily tour.


7. Django Django

Coming out of the gates strong in 2012 with their eponymous debut, Django Django was poised to be one of the best indie bands of the 2010s. While Django Django remains one of the best debut records in decades, limited touring and only releasing two albums thus far are the only things holding Django Django from a higher slot on this list. The band's second album, Born Under Saturn, saw the group expand their sound with the addition of saxophones. Though out of an effort to strive for perfection Django Django put more years between records than most, there is still time for them to squeak out a third album within the decade.


6. Local Natives

One of the few 2010s bands left to truly define indie rock, Local Natives are three albums deep on a tour-heavy career that has kept them busy for most of the decade. The band has kept in favor of both fans and such important indie staples as SiriusXM’s Alt Nation. Their third album, Sunlit Youth, dropped near the end of 2016, keeping them closer to the spotlight than some of the other groups of their generation.


5. alt-J

Emerging in 2012 with a popular debut, An Awesome Wave, alt-J quickly found their niche audience. Their second album quickly hit number one in their home country England. Operating on the model that many of their 2010s indie peers have been born and raised on, alt-J started out recording with the Apple computer app GarageBand while in university. Foundations in GarageBand are not the only thing they attribute to Apple, as their name also has a link: alt + J is the Mac keyboard shortcut to create a delta symbol (∆), the scientific indication of “difference.” Their debut having won the prestigious Mercury Prize, fans are merely awaiting alt-J’s third album.


4. Foals

Debuting in 2005, Foals didn’t quite find their footing until the 2010s, when their 2012 third album Holy Fire started to creep up in radio airplay. Produced by Flood, the album was inspired from a plethora of ethnic sources. The band’s follow-up record has been hinted at since 2014, but has yet to be released, despite Foals continuing to tour and occasionally release teaser tracks. Part of what makes Foals so strong in their category is their outstanding live show, which is widely thought to be the future of indie as record sales continue to dwindle in the face of online streaming services. The past half decade has seen Foals a continual staple of Europe’s music festival scene, and they took home the Q Award in 2013 for Best Live Act.


3. Cage the Elephant

One of the few bands brave enough to try their hand at garage rock in the 2010s, Cage the Elephant are much more than meets the eye. Incorporating classic blues, psychedelic, and indie of decades past, the band have worked hard since they formed in 2007 to create their own distinctive sound. Though they were slow to catch on in the US, their home country, Cage the Elephant initially found success in the UK. Eventually, fans came around, with several of their tracks such as “Shake Me Down” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” charting as much as years after their initial release. Critics soon followed suit, as both 2013’s Melophobia and their latest record, 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty, wound up nominated for the GRAMMY Award for Best Rock Album.


2. Mumford & Sons

To many, Mumford & Sons, the English band helmed by Marcus Mumford from whom they draw their name, are the epitome of indie rock. Originally known for their incorporation of banjos, the band spent the early 2010s as one of the favorite bands of hipsters who adored their folk twinge. Their second studio album, Babel, drew them out from under the indie rock and into mainstream minds, as the record debuted at number 1 in both the US and UK. When their latest album, Wilder Mind, was released in 2015, Mumford & Sons toned down on the folk sound and went more rock, but it didn’t hurt their success - they remain one of the biggest names of the decade to have started out indie.


1. The 1975

Originating in Manchester, The 1975 got together as teenagers, and have been going strong for nearly 15 years now. Their self-titled debut record was finally released in 2013, for which they toured quite extensively, picking up a large fan base worldwide. Part of the success of their debut is attributed to how many EP releases they had prior to it, giving them lots of room to practice and grow. In 2015, the band pulled an odd move of deleting all of their social media accounts and starting a rumor that they had broken up. Instead, within a few months they reappeared with a somewhat changed image, announcing their sophomore album I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet unaware of it. The publicity stunt worked well, shooting The 1975 from indie rock darlings to radio stars by the time the album officially debuted in early 2016.