DJ NYC Indie Pop & Rock Song Favorites of 2009 to Enliven All Kinds of Events

January 27, 2010

Electric feel

These days, if you’re not that familiar with indie pop and rock, and only see and hear the bands or singers at the more popular end of the indie spectrum, it’s easy to think all this kind of music falls into one of two types: either, 1) quiet, mopey acoustic folk sung by skinny white guys with thick beards, or, 2) spastic, nervy pop songs sung by skinny white guys (or girls) wearing tight jeans. 

That may be a little simplistic, but judging from the covers of Spin or Rolling Stone for the past couple years, that conclusion doesn’t seem complete hyperbole because these are the two type of indie music that tend to be most hyped. Many who don’t know indie music much might think then that indie is either only for private listening, since the quiet folksy stuff is too sad to play at the mellower parts of an event like dinner or cocktail time, and the dancier pop stuff is just too obscure for all but a few to know.

But as a dj in nyc who is exposed to so much new music of all genres each year both new and old, both obscure and mainstream, trust me – the world of indie pop and rock is much more wide-ranging than simply the sounds of what grabs the most media attention. (If you're looking for a general and expansive list of all kinds of indie songs from the '60s until now, check out our indie playlists on iTunes by typing in "iMix", then searching "djnyc", as well as looking at the indie categories on this blog and at the dj nyc news & music blog located here.) In our list below, and playable on iTunes here there’s a huge diversity of sound and level of media visibility in terms of the artists: There’s fun, upbeat indie music great for cocktail time that looks back to the sounds of early Prince (Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On a Dream”, MGMT’s very recognizable “Electric Feel”) or the pop soul of 1960s era girl groups (The School’s “I Want You Back”, Camera Obscura’s “Honey in the Sun”); there’s melodic dance grooves that look to the future by creating fresh, lush electronic soundscapes (Annie’s “Bad Times”); there’s lovely, sentimental songs of a folksy-country mood (Laura Cantrell’s cover of New Order’s “Love Vigilantes”, The Avett Brothers’ "I & Love & You”) that will probably be the talk of your dinner party for a bit. 

First train home

In fact, the “indie” label that has become so popular and rather thoughtlessly thrown around in the past decade or so has become such a catch-all that it’s almost without meaning in terms of defining a specific sound; to many people it means a lot of different sounds. About the only thing the term is useful for is alerting you to the likely presence of a certain sensibility – being somehow new and fresh and adventurous, and going against the grain of the mainstream in a variety of ways, even if at times that newness is a retro sound that’s been off the map for awhile.

And don't think indie music can only be used here and there as an occasional filler; it often can be showcased. There’s some indie songs on our list we played this year for important signature moments, like wedding first dances: The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Hysteric (acoustic version)”, a strikingly simple and tender song about love enduring after difficult experiences that features a beautifully crisp female vocal, and the quite close-to-mainstream Ray LaMontagne, with “You Are the Best Thing”, a bouncy, smoky tune that echoes ‘70s Rod Stewart, from that time long ago when his music had a gritty, rough-edged sexiness to it.

And remember, the indie music you choose to play today at your event could give you some "cool points" tomorrow for being seen to be the first to break out a song that later becomes popular and loved. Not so long ago bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and singers like Ray LaMontagne were considered obscure, and now they’re on Saturday Night Live.


1. Electric Feel – MGMT
2. Bruises – Chairlift
3. First Train Home – Imogen Heap
4. Walking On a Dream – Empire of the Sun
5. The’59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem
6. Honey in the Sun – Camera Obscura
7. Lisztomania – Phoenix
8. Vanished – Crystal Castles
9. Love Vigilantes – Laura Cantrell
10. Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
11. I & Love & You – The Avett Brothers
12. Hysteric (acoustic version) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
13. My Girls – Animal Collective
14. Dominos – The Big Pink
15. This Tornado Loves You – Neko Case
16. You Are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
17. I Want You Back – The School
18. Bad Times – Annie

Alt-Country, British Female Retro Soul, Cocktail Hour, Corporate Events, Dinner Music, dj nyc, djnyc, Electronica, Fashion Shows, Folk/Acoustic, Indie Music, Indie Rock & Pop First Dance Songs, Indie Wedding Music, nyc dj, Off the Beaten Track Wedding Songs, Road Trip Music, Synthpop, Weddings

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