Editor’s note: The point of more extensive genre lists is to help give shine to albums that wouldn’t make it into the overall best albums list. After all, the point of these lists is to examine the way music has changed or moved throughout the year, and our year-end framework will continue to reflect that impetus. Though it’s meant to highlight the best work in the genre, hopefully, you can also make some discoveries through this list.
Traditionally, indie music has earned itself a reputation of being something that’s outside of or an alternative to the mainstream. However, as streaming music and the internet continue to give fans uninterrupted access to whatever they want to listen to and the ability to discover something new without expending a ton of effort, that’s becoming less and less true. Indie is mainstream now.
Really, what music fan hasn’t heard of groups like Death Cab For Cutie or MGMT, two of the most storied groups on this list of 2018’s best indie albums? Followers of the hit Netflix show 13 Reasons Why are familiar with Lord Huron, whose music soundtracked a key moment on the program. Pop and hip-hop stans know Blood Orange and Justin Vernon (who appears on this list as part of Big Red Machine) well thanks to their collaborations in those genres.
Indie music has a big role in the music world, and in pop culture as a whole, and the quality and diversity of the genre are worth celebrating. This list features everything from psychedelic indie pop to emotional rock ballads to gentle folk to quirky punk-leaning music. All those vibes and everything in between truly do offer something for all listeners, not just skinny jean-wearing, Tumblr blog-having baristas.