As someone who got called “wanker”, “dick-features” and “c**t-knocker” last time I published a list feature (and that was just by my editor), I’m painfully aware of the need to anticipate certain criticisms when it comes to a topic like this.
The cavilling can take many forms, from the indier-than-thou (“Idiots! Everyone knows Animal Collective went shit after ”Sung Tongs'”) to the unhinged (“WHERE ARE BUMSNOGGER??”).
Those comments can be deflected fairly easily. Rather harder to parry is the simpler question: Why? Why launch an indie albums poll now?
Happily, there is a good reason. Right now, for the first time in a generation – since Britpop first colonised the mainstream, in fact – ‘indie’ actually means something. For years it has been a dirty word, all too easily prefixed by snide terms like “landfill-” and “supermarket” by broadsheet snobs.
And who could blame them? For much of the noughties, ‘indie’ has meant T4 and ‘Orange Unsigned Act’, and Alex Zane in a fucking straw trilby introducing The Fratellis at V. It has meant (if you’re me) your mum asking you who sings, “That nice ‘If I just lay here‘ song” on Magic FM.
No longer. Today, the bands generating the most heat are acts like The Horrors and SCUM, skinny weirdos with stupid hair and recondite record collections, making brilliant music that doesn’t have a hope in hell of filling the O2, or being picked up by Dermot O’Leary, or ticking any of the boxes that used to constitute ‘cracking the mainstream’.
Yet, paradoxically, it’s never been easier to access this music that we can once again term ‘alternative’ without everyone falling about laughing. Blog culture, downloading and limitless streaming means we can drill down into our chosen niche as far as we choose – and then instantly share and debate our discoveries with like-minded souls. It’s almost like being part of a tribe again.
I ought to say something by way of defining terms: we’ve decided to not let ‘indie’ mean ‘released on an independent label’ (as Amazon did with their list). Given the knotty complexities of mergers and major-label subsidiaries, it’s impossible to police.
So our definition of indie is loose and instinctive, encompassing Dizzee Rascal and Husker Du, Slint and Sigur Ros – but not, say, My Chemical Romance or Jimmy Eat World. We could argue about those subtleties for hours, but it would be pretty tedious.
More importantly, this is your poll, not ours. So, once you’ve scrolled through and rated, if there’s an album you can’t find that you think deserves to be in there, leave a comment below, and I’ll endeavour to add it. Two rules: 1) the cut-off for suggestions is Thursday 7 May, and 2) in order to make this a living thread rather than just a list of album titles, please give a reason for your suggestions.