Idolator Wants To Know When You Were Most Indie

Aug 29th, 2007 // 62 Comments

lolindie.jpgSo Matos and I got to chatting yesterday, prompted by Maura’s “O.O.P.” entry on Unrest (a band both of us really dislike), which led us to talking about his own last installment on Imperial Teen’s Seasick (a band he loves and I like just fine), which led (somehow) to him mentioning that he thought 1998 was his most “indie rock” year, i.e. the year that indie rock releases filled up his own personal Top 10, squeezing out the rave and the rap and the whatnot. And then we started wondering how the rest of Idolator’s readership feels about the question. (By which I mean Matos said we should do a poll.) So we want to know what year your own list of favorites was dominated by indie rock records to the exclusion of all else. Which is, of course, just another year of saying what year was the best year for indie rock.

The idea for this poll came up just a few days after someone else had commented on how much indie rock I seemed to be listening to over the last few years, as if it was some shocking revelation. Among our friends (and a few not-so-friends), Matos and myself are both kind of known for a certain … combativeness about indie rock’s ubquity among online (and otherwise) journalists that (for me anyway, I won’t presume to speak for M.) is born out of equal parts love for the music and a deep, deep suspicion of the critical cant that can go along with it. (At the end of the day I’m more pop-punk/emo than indie rock. And c’mon, that’s totally not hairsplitting.)

So on one level I’m just having fun with expectations. But it’s also a way for me to answer a question that’s been rumbling around in my head since I started here (especially after the comments box explosion that was the “Pitchfork reviews This Is Next post): Even with all of our Britney shenanigans and Kanye handjobs and disco foolishness, just how much of an indie rock-listening audience makes up Idolator?

And of course, I’m really just curious about the answer to the secret question: What do you guys think was indie rock’s best year? Or at least your favorite, if you have to make that kind of distinction. The 1986 start point is not random, but my reasoning is too convoluted to get into here. Oh, and comments box explanations for your personal pick are pretty much required. Defend those choices! Arguments about the definition of “indie,” and which bands fall into it and which don’t, are also encouraged if only because they tend to be hilarious–just keep it polite, folks.

P.S. If the last option ends up actually winning, I’m taking you all out for ice cream.

P.P.S. Mine is ’94. Or maybe 2007, at the rate I’m going.

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  1. AL

    i think my discovery of .rar blogs and use of rss feeds this year (so maybe i was a little late on that train… don’t make fun) has made 2007 my most “indie” year, because i’ve been able to get on top of every new release that i’ve been interested in.

    my other possibility was 2001, my first year of college, when my new access to the wonders of a constant hi-speed internet connection and soulseek led me to all the ‘indie’ sounds i’d missed in the radio wasteland of Cleveland over the previous 3 years.

  2. MattS

    I dunno, Maura, I think you were pretty indie in 1994 when you and I had this brief exchange on

  3. bluetangle

    Going on the criteria of “most indie albums in my top 10″, 1997 was my most indie year, even though I went to no shows and lived at a boarding school in Oklahoma.

    If we’re talking about going to concerts and being involved, it’d be 2003, when I worked for a label and went to see shows four nights a week. However, my tastes were more varied at that point; I was listening to hip-hop, country, old stuff, and international stuff.

  4. FluxEqualsRad

    What might be a better poll is to ask how old this audience is. Following the boomer’s “music was best in ’67″ analogy, the older I get, the more I realize that I too think music was best when I was younger. If Wolf Parade turned you onto indie rock, then 2005 is your indie Rosetta stone. If you listened to them and thought of all the bands they sounded like, then your year is more likely ’94. I’m on the mid 90′s side of the fence (when indie had a whole ‘nother meaning) so I’m going to side with Maura at 96.

  5. Maura Johnston

    @MattS: oh my god.

  6. amyk

    I have to say ’94. I decided that my most important extracurricular activity would be establishing pen-pal relationships with the catalog operations of Matador, Merge, Touch & Go, Dischord and Sub Pop. I think that was the year I got my Sub Pop mechanics jacket w/ ‘Loser’ embroidered on it.

    BTW – Merge & Dischord were always good for the free stuff w/ purchase.

  7. stopokaygo

    No love for 2006? A phenomenal year for indie and music in general, I thought.

  8. Poubelle

    @therichgirlsareweeping: Hah. All the comments are making me feel way young. I think ’98 was the year the mainstream stuff scared me away from new music altogether until about 2001/2.

    My indiest year might be 2005, except for the summer where my iPod broke and I was stuck in rural Wisconsin with only the local Top 40 and friends who were big country fans. So I might have to go with last year or ’04 (the latter of which I only became indie because a friend started feeding me CDs in an attempt to get me to listen to something besides the Flaming Lips all the time).

  9. Susan

    1994 for me. I had a fanzine and my favorite band was the Grifters. The first Table of the Elements showcase was that April (though I don’t think Faust reunions count as indie, necessarily). 7″s made up a significant part of my daily listening.

    Then I turned 18, and it’s been a long, slow loss of hipness ever since, coinciding with the end of print fanzines and the emergence of downloading. I have way more mersh tastes now.

  10. Feh Am Legend

    Yep, I’m old. I’m going with ’87 because that was probably when I was at my most self-consciously indie. Not much but Homestead, SST, Twin/Tone, Touch & Go and imports in my collection. Saw Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Pussy Galore, Volcano Suns. But after 87 I began realizing that being indie meant squat to most people

    But honestly, I was indie before 86. I was definitely on the early edge with hardcore and Mission of Burma; and I think it was 85 that I saw the Minutemen. And I haven’t been indie for over a decade, I definitely find myself back there again but for entirely different reasons.

  11. BretMcBret

    1994: Cherubs “Heroin Man,” Pavement’s “Crooked Rain Crooked Rain,” Tall Dwarf’s “3 EPs,” Red Red Meat s/t, Unwound “New Plastic Ideals,” Flying Luttenbachers “Constructive Destruction,” godheadsilo “The Scientific Supercake,” The Clean “Modern Rock,” Dead C “operation of the Sonne,” Brise-Glace ” . . . When in Vanitas . . .,” Peter Jefferies “Electricity,” Thee Headcoates “Conundrum,” Sebadoh’s “Bakesale,” Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Orange,” Tortoise s/t; Palace Brothers s/t, Shellac “At Action Park,” GBV “Bee Thousand,” God is My Co-Pilot “Mir Shlufn Nisht,” Thinking Fellers “Strangers from the Universe,” Come “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Thee Headcoatees “Girlsville,” Grifters “Crapping You Negative,” Bedhead “Whatfunlifewas,” Magic Hour “No Excess is Absurd,” Rodan “Rusty,” Silkworm “Libertine,” Gastr Del Sol “Crookt, Crackt, or Fly,” Antietam “Rope-a-Dope,” Brainbombs “Genius and Brutality,” Built to Spill “There is Nothing Wrong With Love,” Guv’ner “Hard for Measy For You,” ’68 Comback “Mr. Downchild,” New Bomb Turks “Information Highway Revisited,” Silver Jews “Starlite Walker,” Smog “Burning Kingdom,” Liz Phiar “Whip-Smart,” Magnetic Fields “Charm of the Highway Strip,” Afghan Whigs “What Jails Is Like,” Huggy Bear “Weapony Listens to Love,” Kustomized “Mystery of . . .,” Superchunk “Foolish,” Melvins “Prick” and “Stoner Witch,” Lungfish “Pass and Stow,” Giant Sand “Purge and Slouch,” Mouse on Mars “Vulvaland,” Freakwater “Feels Like the Third Time,” “The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall,” Dog Faced Hermans “Those Deep Buds.” Of course, I graduated college that year and my mother died three months later, so maybe I’m just being sentimental.

  12. Labtheque

    How do I even answer this question being, y’know, 19? It’s like I have to say this year because my musical tastes are still changing — this year I seriously started listening to the Sarah catalogue, a good chunk of those tastemaker German electronic labels, and seriously following Kranky and Leaf releases.

    I’m in that “Fuck, there is so much music I missed by being young. How am I going to catch up?”

    I think I’m going to say 2004, because that was the point where I was listening to all the “cool” indie bands/touchstones of that year and thought I was “oh-so-indie”.

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