The Best Indie Rock Music from the ’90s

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look back at some of the best indie rock music from the ’90s. From Sonic Youth to Pavement, find out which bands made the decade great.


The ’90s was a great decade for indie rock music. Many new bands and artists emerged during this time, and the genre was truly revolutionized. If you’re a fan of indie rock music, then you’re sure to enjoy this list of some of the best indie rock music from the ’90s. From classics like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to more obscure tracks like Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair,” there’s something for everyone on this list. So sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the best indie rock music from the ’90s.


Pavement is one of the most influential indie rock bands of the ’90s. Formed in Stockton, California in 1989, the band was originally composed of singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus, bassist Mark Ibold, drummer Gary Young, and guitarist/singer Scott Kannberg. The group released their debut album Slanted and Enchanted in 1992 to critical acclaim. The album featured lo-fi production values and cryptic lyrics that set it apart from other music of the time. Pavement’s follow-up album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994) was even more successful, cementing the band’s place as one of the most important indie rock bands of the ’90s. Pavement disbanded in 1999 but reunited for a tour in 2010.

Built to Spill

Formed in 1992, Built to Spill is an American indie rock band based in Boise, Idaho. The band consists of Doug Martsch (guitar and lead vocals), Brett Nelson (bass), Steve Gere (drums), and Jim Roth (guitar).

The band’s early material was heavily influenced by the psychedelic rock and garage rock of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the work of singer-songwriter Neil Young. Over the years, their sound has shifted away from pure underground indie rock towards a more polished pop sound, although they have retained their critical acclaim and cult following.

Built to Spill has released eight studio albums, most notably their 1997 album Perfect from Now On, which was ranked #39 on Pitchfork’s list of the “100 Best Albums of the 1990s”. Their latest album, Untethered Moon, was released in 2015 to positive reviews.

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse began in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington, and is still making music today. If you haven’t heard of them, you might know them best from their hit song “Float On.”

The band is composed of lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. They have released seven studio albums: This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (1996), The Lonesome Crowded West (1997), The Moon & Antarctica (2000), Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004), We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007), No One’s First and You’re Next (2009) EP, and Strangers to Ourselves (2015).

Guided by Voices

Guided by Voices is an American indie rock band from Dayton, Ohio, founded in 1983 by Robert Pollard. The band has been through several lineup changes, with the only constant member being Pollard. He is the primary songwriter and vocalist for the group, playing guitar and keyboards.

The band’s musical style has varied widely over the years, but their songs are generally characterized by lo-fi production values and classic pop song structures. Guided by Voices initially gained popularity in the underground lo-fi scene of the early 1990s before gaining mainstream exposure after signing with Matador Records in 1994.

The band’s most recent album, Please Be Honest, was released in 2016.

Archers of Loaf

Archers of Loaf were an American indie rock band formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1991. The group consisted of Eric Bachmann (lead vocals and guitar), Eric Johnson (guitar), Matt Gentling (bass guitar), and Mark Price (drums). Originally known for their lo-fi and punk-influenced sound, the band later developed a more atmospheric sound with their later albums.

The band released their first album, I Hate Music, in 1993. The album was well received by critics and helped the band gain a following among indie rock fans. The band’s second album, Vee Vee, was released in 1995 and was even more successful than their debut. The album featured the singles “Web in Front” and “Lowest Part Is Free”, which were both hits on college radio.

After the release of Vee Vee, the band toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. They also appeared on several television shows, including Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 1998, the band released their third album, White Trash Heroes. The album was not as successful as their previous two albums, but still received positive reviews from critics.

The band announced their breakup in 1998, but reunited for a reunion tour in 2011. They have since released two live albums, one in 2012 and one in 2014.

The Breeders

The Breeders are an American Alternative rock band formed in 1989 by Kim Deal of Pixies and Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses. The band has experienced numerous line-up changes, but has always been fronted by Deal. The current lineup includes Kelley Deal (Kim’s twin sister), Josephine Wiggs, and Jim MacPherson.

The band’s best-known album is the platinum-selling Last Splash (1993), which features the singles “Cannonball” and “Divine Hammer”. Other albums include Pod (1990), Title TK (2002), Mountain Battles (2008) and All Nerve (2018). The Breeders are set to headline the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in May 2019.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was an American rock band from New York City, formed in 1981. Members included Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals), Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals), Steve Shelley (drums) and later Mark Ibold (bass).

The group was considered one of the leaders of the US alternative rock scene and produced a string of successful albums and singles throughout the ’80s and ’90s. They were also associated with the emergence of the independent record label scene in the US.

The band disbanded in 2011 after Moore and Gordon left to focus on their respective solo careers.

Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. is an American rock band formed in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1984, originally consisting of J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals), and Murph (drums). The band’s first two albums, Dinosaur and You’re Living All Over Me (both released in 1987), were highly influential within the independent rock scene. After 1988’s Bug failed to find an audience on account of its more pop-oriented melody, the group was dropped from its label. The following year they were signed to Sire Records’ subsidiary Blanco y Negro, for whom they recorded four albums.

Dinosaur Jr. was one of the first alternative rock bands to achieve mainstream success in the United States; their third album Green Mind (1991) reached number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart and has been cited as an influence by various artists. In 2005, the band reformed; Mascis and Barlow have continued to record and tour with a rotating cast of musicians.


Sleater-Kinney is an American rock band that formed in Olympia, Washington, in 1994. The group’s lineup features co-founders and guitarist-singer Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, who are also currently members of Wild Flag. sporadically throughout the years with irregularly scheduled live appearances. They produced six studio albums—Sleater-Kinney (1995), Call the Doctor (1996), Dig Me Out (1997), The Hot Rock (1999), One Beat (2002), and The Woods (2005). Sleater-Kinney’s final album, No Cities to Love, was released on January 20, 2015.


To sum up, the best indie rock music from the ’90s was a decade of incredible music that was both innovative and popular. There were many great bands and artists who made waves during this time, and their influence can still be felt today. If you’re a fan of indie rock music, then this is definitely a decade worth checking out.

Similar Posts