The 50 Greatest New York City Rock Bands

There's something specifically about NYC that has always appealed to musicians, and that has spurred some of the most successful rock bands over the last several decades.. From labels, to venue spaces, to the records themselves, here's the 50 Best New York City Rock Bands.

New York City has consistently been a hotbed of incredible art—whether that be music, theatre, visual works or film. But there’s something specifically about the city that has always appealed to musicians, that has brought out the best in those who live here, and that has spurred some of the most successful rock bands over the last several decades.

From the hardcore scene, to the emergence of punk rock, indie rock, shoegaze, folk-rock and so much more, New York bands are marked by their intermingled members, local influences and constant innovations. From labels, to venue spaces, to the records themselves, here’s the 50 Best New York Rock Bands.


2. 50. Chairlift

Years Active: 2007–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Were you at that one party? That one up on the ninth floor. / Were you the quiet one who stopped to hold the door?" — "Met Before"

Most New York Song: "Sidewalk Safari"

Aaron Pfenning and Caroline Polachek founded the synth-pop duo of Chairlift when they were both students at the University of Colorado. The original goal of the pair was to make music to play in the background at haunted houses, but their output soon transcended its unlikely origin story, and after recording a self-released EP in 2007 called Daylight Savings, Pfenning and Polachek headed to Brooklyn and bass player Patrick Wimberly soon joined up. The trio quickly scored a deal with local indie label Kanine Records as Polachek's astonishing voice and the group's innovative synth-sound ensured that their first full-length Does You Inspire You released in 2008 gained the attention of practically the entire musical community.

Chairlift toured with the likes of Yeasayer and MGMT, building a fan base that resulted in a deal with Columbia for their second album released last year, Something. A number of highly successful singles also contributed to their success, "Evident Utensil" off their initial self-released EP and 2008's "Bruises" that was featured in an iPod commercial. "Amanaemonesia" and "I Belong in Your Arms" also charted very well for the group, ensuring their place in the indie rock elite. The synthy pop-heavy sound of Chairlift ushers in a new era of rock and pop understandings for the indie scene in New York, pointing toward the future.—Caitlin White

3. 49. Beirut

Years Active: 2006–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Another rose wilts in East Harlem / And uptown downtown a thousand miles between us" — "East Harlem"

Most New York Song: "Forks and Knifes (La Fête)"

Despite how different they are, it's hard to imagine Beirut being successful without the forerunners of Gogol Bordello popularizing the sounds of eastern European/gypsy music. But where Gogol Bordello turns toward the punk scene with open arms Beirut embraces the fringes of folk music, creating a much more subdued sound.

Zach Condon infamously recorded Beirut's first album Gulag Orkestar in his bedroom after traveling abroad to Europe where he was deeply impacted by Balkan folk and Gypsy music. Despite recording the record in New Mexico, it wasn't until Condon came to New York for the first live performance of the material in 2006 that Beirut really began to gain weight as an important band. Three full-length albums, numerous EPs and many side projects later, Condon and Beirut are heralded as an extremely important influence on the rise of world music in the indie/folk scene.—Caitlin White

4. 48. MGMT

Years Active: 2004–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "It's just the way the city smells / It's just the way the rain falls now" — "Destrokk"

Most New York Song: "Time to Pretend"

It's hard to believe that MGMT's Oracular Spectacular came out in 2007. Their psychedelic blend of rock, pop, and electronic had an obvious impact on the music that came after it, and it triggered a wave of major label music that appealed to indie-minded kids who didn't want the stadium rock or radio pop that dominated the mainstream for so many years. On that first album, a trio of hits ("Kids," "Time To Pretend," and "Electric Feel") set the tone for music that was immediate and accessible but also odd and edgy enough to keep things interesting. And since then, instead of simply pumping out more hits, MGMT got even weirder and more experimental. Calling them one of the most influential bands from New York may seem like a stretch, but MGMT was one of the most important acts to take the modern day "indie" sound and attitude and make it massively successful.—Jacob Moore

5. 47. The National

Years Active: 1999–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Livin' or dyin' in New York it means nothing to me" — "Lemonworld"

Most New York Song: "Fake Empire"

The National is composed of twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dressner, brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf and vocalist Matt Beringer. Although Bryan, Bryce and Aaron were friends back in their hometown of Cincinatti, and even played in bands together previously, and Scott and Matt met in college, it wasn't until they all moved to Brooklyn that the group solidified, putting out their first, self-titled album The National in 2001 through their own label Brassland Records. Beringer's ominous, haunting baritone voice led the way through the twisted dark hallways of the American psyche that the songs explored, quickly bringing the band into the spotlight.

Their second album, 2003's Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers was praised by several publications, and 2004's EP Cherry Tree landed them a spot touring with The Walkmen. Signing on with Beggars Banquet for their third studio album Alligator, this record was almost unanimously declared to be one of the best albums of the 2000s, if not the best album of 2005 itself. Further success with follow-ups including 2007's Boxer, 2008's The Virginia EP and 2009's High Violet established the band as both prolific and consistent. Their next record was announced as Trouble Will Find Me and is slated for release through 4AD on May 20 of this year. The National brought the larger concerns of American life, the tedium of the suburbs, the uncertainy of growing up in a post-modern and nearly post-capitalist society, and placed those front and center in rock music again, a feat that won them fans of almost every age and background.—Caitlin White

6. 46. Nada Surf

Years Active: 1992–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Cats and dogs are coming down / 14th street is gonna drown / Everyone else rushing round" — "Blonde on Blonde"

Most New York: "Blankest Year"

Nada Surf's story is a very New York one in many ways—their initial break was due in large part to a chance run-in with legendary producer Ric Ocasek (The Cars, Weezer) who they met outside of a show at the quintessential New York venue the Knitting Factory. Giving Ocasek one of their demos of Trafkon on a whim, and he ended up producing their first full-length High/Low that produced their hit single "Popular." The group faced an immense amount of pressure to recapture the same commercial success on their follow-up albums, and though they experienced a burst of popularity in Europe, their next album Proximity Effect fell flat, so the band ruthlessly toured to re-gain support.

2002's Let Go saw them back on the rise, as did 2005's The Weight is a Gift which was critically acclaimed. Nada Surf are the perfect example of a band that are technically very good and write incredibly intelligent, witty indie rock songs, but never really broke through the barrier between popular and famous. After all, sometimes the best bands don't ever get famous—but that's why the existence of a city like New York is essential—its local scene is enough to fuel the existence of groups like this one.—Caitlin White

7. 45. Kiss

Years Active: 1973–present

NYC Lyric Reference:"I'm back, back in the New York groove / I'm back, back in the New York groove" — "New York Groove"

Most New York Song: "Rock and Roll All Nite"

Gene Simmons and Kiss are certainly known more for their theatrics than their music—between the white face makeup, spitting blood and fire breathing, it's hard to remember that the band has been awarded 28 gold albums and has sold over 40 million records to date. Mostly associated with the Detroit scene, Kiss actually formed in New York in 1973 with the original line up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.

The group's gimmick of assuming comic-book like personas when they performed struck a chord with a huge fanbase, and though their shtick now seems campy, their intial years were extremely successful. The glam rock style that the group adopted musically picked up where groups like the New York Dolls left off, and even with later line up changes still stuck close to this sound throughout their lengthy discography. Kiss is an important reminder that music is more than just sounds and sonics, the personalities and stories that accompany the bands that remain on type are equally important—for better or for worse.—Caitlin White

8. 44. Gogol Bordello

Years Active: 1999–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "We ventured on New York throughway where myself I heard I say / Shall I be classic self crasher? Or be a good flasher?" — "When the Trickster Starts A-Pokin'"

Most New York Song: "Alcohol"

Certainly the term "gypsy punk" was first introduced to the world through Gogol Bordello, but it seems like a safe bet to assume that their formation could've only happened in New York City. Drawing half of their name from the influential Ukranian/Russian think Nikolai Gogol, and the other half from the Ukranian word for brothel, the band presented a continual juxtaposition of ideological opposites that against all odds, just worked. After frontman and leader Eugene Hutz left Ukraine due to the Chernobyl incident and lived in refugee camps with his family for seven years before finally moving to Vermont and then New York City. The project was originally titled Hütz and the Béla Bartóks after a Hungarian composer, but Hutz changed it after realizing no one in the US knew who Bartok was.

The group released their first single and album in 1999 and later, in 2005 signed to the punk label SideOneDummy Records. The strength of the band's popularity, however, was based on their relentless touring. They took two, somewhat sidelined musical genres–punk and gypsy music—and melded them into one massive sound that demanded to be heard. One of Gogol's original ideas was to smuggle Ukranian culture into Russian society, and Hutz desired to do the same with gypsy/Eastern European music. As Gogol Bordello were picked up by an imprint of Columbia in 2010 and are embraced as a beloved New York band, it certainly seems like they succeeded.—Caitlin White

9. 43. Spin Doctors

Years Active: 1988–1999, 2001–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Graphite skies of Brooklyn calmly drape Fourth Avenue / Fifteen-year-old gangsters have a honey-dipped or two" — "Hungry Hamed's"

Most New York Song: "Two Princes"

Although the Spin Doctors are a blues-infused jam band, they're one that still knows how to write pop songs, as exemplified by their two radio hits "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong"—which most people probably know even if they aren't familiar with who sings them, or the rest of the Spin Doctors discography. Frankie LaRocka signed the band to Epic in 1991 and their debut album Pocket Full of Kryptonite was a slow-burner that gained support through grass-roots, TV appearances and festivals—when MTV began playing the two aforementioned singles though, the record went gold in 1992. It received further boosts from additional singles and videos, an SNL appearance and a Rolling Stone cover—eventually selling over 10 million copies worldwide.

Their second album Turn it Upside Down released in 1994 wasn't as commercially relevant, although it did chart and sell a million copies in the US. With a new guitarist, the group released You've Got to Believe in Something in 1996, but the album did so poorly that Epic dropped the group. Still, they soldiered on, signing to Uptown/Universal and releasing Here Comes the Bride and Nice Talking to Me. Neither of these records did much for the band, but nevertheless, they released If the River Was Whiskey this year. Although the group couldn't maintain consistent success, their initial growth from grass-roots support and the prevalence of their bluesy pop laid the groundwork for the re-emergence of blues and funk elements within pop music.—Caitlin White

10. 42. Liars

Years Active: 2000–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "I Still Can See an Outside World"

Angus Andrew and Aaron Hemphill initially met in Los Angeles, and began recording music together there using a four-track, but it wasn't until they moved to New York City and they placed a want ad for a drummer, Pat Noecker and Ron Albertson joined the group. The group adopted the name Liars and began recording their 2001 debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top and though this release gained the band a following within the post-punk New York music scene, after two more short EPs, Noecker and Albertson left the band. Julian Gross joined as the new drummer, and their 2004 "story-themed" release that concentrated on fairytales and witchcraft They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. The album also featured production from Dave Sitek and was panned by critics, receiving a fairly negative overall reception.

Still, the band seemed unshakeable by the reaction and moved to Berlin to work on their next release, 2006's Drum's Not Dead which featured even more experimentation—specifically with drum sounds. In 2007 they released a self-titled record Liars and toured with the likes of Interpol and Radiohead, increasing their exposure. They released Sisterworld in 2009 and WIXIW in 2012, further expanding their experimentation with electronic sampling, loops and sound. Liars are now considered to be some of the best recent experimenters with electronic and noise rock.—Caitlin White

11. 41. Matt and Kim

Years Active: 2004–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Hey New York here's our wolf-like shadow / Hey New York our old friend" — "I'll Take Us Home"

Most New York Song: "Daylight"

The couple and musical duo of Matt Johnson & Kim Schifino is the perfect example of a DIY indie rock group in the 2000s. Releasing their first, self-titled album in 2006, the record sold mostly at their live shows, helped them build a solid fanbase for the pair, and this along with their multiple tours resulted in a record deal with the FADER record label. Through FADER, Matt & Kim released their second album Grand in 2009 which spurred them to national success through viral video "Lessons Learned" that showed them stripping nude in Times Square.

It was the song "Daylight" off Grand and its appearance in several television commercials and shows that really skyrocketed their fame though. Their follow ups to Grand was 2010's Sidewalks and 2012's Lightning both of which have cemented Matt & Kim as key members of the pop/indie rock community in Brooklyn, and they announced a winter tour with Passion Pit this year.—Caitlin White

12. 40. The So So Glos

Years Active: 2007–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "They all tell me New York City's dyin' / With the wave of her hand, she went and took it to another land" — "My Block"

Most New York Song: "Wrecking Ball"

Brothers Alex and Ryan Levine founded the So So Glos in 2007 along with Matt Elkin and their step-brother Zach Staggers. Classified as a punk rock band, their initial self-titled debut didn't receive much attention, but their second release, the Terrorism / Tourism EP garned a lot of critical attention for the band. Perhaps more than their music, the So So Glos are known for their work in establishing DIY music spaces in Brooklyn, helping found The Market Hotel in 2008 along with Todd P., and later, in 2009 forming Shea Stadium into the performance space that it is now. The group have toured with Titus Andronicus, Matt and Kim and the Futureheads, but have yet to expand into the larger cultural consciousness as a well-known group. Their as yet latest record Blowout which came out just last week, may change that however.—Caitlin White

13. 39. Les Savy Fav

Years Active: 1995–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "The Empire State / Made out of ginger cake / Came crumbling down / Before we had a taste" — "In These Woods"

Most New York Song: "Excess Energies"

Les Savy Fav is known almost equally for their music as for lead singer Tom Harrington's stage antics and bassist Syd Butler's record label, Frenchkiss. Unlike Swans or Suicide, Harrington's interactions with the audience were never violent or ill-intentioned, but centered more around surprising proximity or intense costumes. The group formed in 1995 after attending the Rhode Island School of Design together, and their reputation playing in New York and other East Coast cities garnered them attention from Seattle's Sub Pop records, who invited them to record a single. The single was released in 1997, "Rodeo" and "Blackouts on Thursday"—by the end of the year the band was recording a full-length, 3/5, and enjoying increased success and exposure from touring. Their second album 1999's The Cat and the Cobra was the first released through Frenchkiss.

Line up changes and several albums later, the group went on hiatus so Harrington could focus on his family and Butler could attend to Frenchkiss' growing roster—The Hold Steady, Passion Pit and Local Natives to name a few. Returning in 2007 with Let's Stay Friends, which was their most critically-acclaimed record, the group played the UK festival All Tomorrow's Parties that year and released a digital only live concert record called After the Balls Drop and their fifth record in 2010 Root for Ruin. Les Savy Fav is one of those bands that becomes embedded in the cultural fabric of New York, not only through their music but as members of the greater art community.—Caitlin White

14. 38. Vampire Weekend

Years Active: 2006–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "While home in New York was champagne and disco / Tapes from L.A. slash San Francisco" — "Step"

Most New York Song: "Taxi Cab"

Vampire Weekend doesn't represent the gritty side of New York City. A group that met at at Ivy League school over a love of punk rock and African music, the band started as a rap duo. Yes, really. Ezra Koenig and Chris Tomson were a couple of Ivy League kids who loved punk and African music, and they rapped. And when you think about it—past the stereotypical leather jackets and black shades—is there anything more New York City than a couple of Ivy League kids who, one more time, love punk rock and African music... and rap? Vampire Weekend unashamedly borrow from other cultures and infuse it with their own style, and in doing so they manage to create some of the most accessible indie rock ever made.—Jacob Moore

15. 37. Dirty Projectors

Years Active: 2002–present

NYC Lyric Reference: This fucking city is run by pigs / They take away the rights from all the kids / Walk down the street, I flip them off / They hit me across the head with a billy club""Police Story"
Most New York Song:
"The Socialites"

At their heart, The Dirty Projectors are lead and directed by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter David Longstreth. The initial foray into recording an album that Longstreth ventured was a solo album in 2002 called The Graceful Fallen Mango, another in 2003 called The Glad Fact, and 2005's Don Henley-inspired The Getty Address. It wasn't until 2007's Rise Above, a record of re-imagined Black Flag songs, that the Dirty Projectors line-up solidified to contain vocalists Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian—their vocal presence was also heavily felt on the next record, Bitte Orca in 2008.

Longstreth had worked with dozens of up and coming Brooklyn musicians while he tried to figure out the group's sound, but after Bitte Orca the group worked with the likes of David Byrne, Bjork and Solange Knowles. In 2012 the group released Swing Lo Magellan and the About to Die EP, along with a short film containing their songs called Hi Custodian. Their place in the New York music scene is cemented by their recent show at Carnegie Hall, a venue that ushers them into exclusive company, and their equal ability to continue playing at events like concerts held for Hurricane Sandy relief.—Caitlin White

16. 36. Ratatat

Years Active: 2001–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A (Instrumental)

Most New York Song: "Seventeen Years"

Ratatat is an important New York band because they illustrate the direction that production, electronic music, and hip-hop are heading. Though they've only been around since the beginning of the 2000s, the duo of guitarist Mike Stroud and producer Evan Mast created an innovative brand of guitar-electronica that managed to became a sensation—something rare for a group whose work is almost entirely instrumental.

They released their first, self-titled album in 2004 and signed to XL Recordings shortly after, and have gone on to reason a stream of consistently successful, instrumental/electronic albums. Where the group have really made a name for themselves, in a lot of ways, is by collaborating with rappers. From Kid Cudi to Young Churf, the duo serve up the perfect soundscape for rappers to shine against. Ratatat brought the role of producer-as-star into the spotlight with rapid speed, and their visual/light shows remain as entertaining and artistic as their music.—Caitlin White

17. 35. The Antlers

Years Active: 2006–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "When you fell crossing that street / South of Houston, old Manhattan land / Those nightmares fell from building-tops / And took you by the hand" — "Sylvia (An Introduction)"

Most New York Song: "French Exit"

Initially started by Peter Silberman as a solo project, he wrote the group's first two albums solo, not expanding The Anters to include Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci until around 2007. Their next album, Hospice was mostly released first as EPs, and chronicles an abusive relationship between a hospice worker and a terminally ill patient. When the group self-released this record in 2007, it sold out of all available copies, and they re-released it in 2009 after signing with New York label Frenchkiss. It was these painful, heart-breaking reflections that really garnered the band attention, and their later records, Burst Apart in 2011 and a four song EP last year called Undersea have helped cement their spot in the Brooklyn indie music scene—even if neither of these releases came close to the critical acclaim that Hospice received.—Caitlin White

18. 34. Blonde Redhead

Years Active: 1993–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Tell me about New York / Tell me about her" — "My Plants Are Dead"

Most New York Song: "Ego Maniac Kid"

Buoyed by both noise rock and shoegaze influences, the dream pop of Blonde Redhead is the combination of jazz-educated Italian twins Simone and Amedeo Pace and Japanese lead singer/guitarist Kazu Makino and bassist Maki Takahashi. Although other members have come and gone over the course of the group's eight albums, including Takahashi's early departure, the initial trio of the Pace brothers and Makino are the consistent members on each record.

Experimenting with the No Wave movement and incorporating chaotic electronic elements, the group soon caught the attention of Sonic Youth's drummer Steve Shelley who released their debut self-titled record on his label Smells Like Records in 1995. From there, the group proceeded to put out seven more solid albums, including getting signed to 4AD for the last three. Although the group hasn't seen an immense amount of commercial success, their local New York City fan-base is highly devoted to the group, and their contribution to the noise and shoegaze scene of the city is essential to the continued dream pop infiltration that has overtaken NYC.—Caitlin White

19. 33. Grizzly Bear

Years Active: 2002–present

NYC Lyric Reference:"I've looked everywhere, Mr. Forbes / But I can't find your clamshells / Your file or your drill / And your sheepskin-lined coat is eluding me still / And of course, you can't go without that" — "Marla"

Most New York Song: "Two Weeks"

The fragile tenacity of Grizzly Bear's sound helped usher the folkier elements of rock back into the spotlight, and the Brooklyn quartet grew into their acclaim very naturally. The project originated as a DIY venture recorded at home by Edward Droste on a handheld tape recorder in the early 2000s, it wasn't until Christopher Bear stepped in to help with some of the songs for the initial album Horn of Plenty that the group began to take form. Later, Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen joined the line-up and helped flesh out what quickly became a cult classic band, whose softer folk edge was balanced by driving percussion and electronic additions. The songs speak to relationships and love, but also touch on larger socio-political concerns, reflecting a self-awareness that is refreshing.—Caitlin White

20. 32. Yeasayer

Years Active: 2006–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Ten thousand red balloons over New York / Hope the bridges all burn your life away" — "Fingers Never Bleed"

Most New York Song: "Ambling Alp"

Yeasayer's psychedelic pop first hit New York after their break out down in Austin at SXSW in 2007, but they quickly became a staple in the conglomeration of dance, synth-heavy experimental sounds that was sweeping through Brooklyn's nouveau-rock scene. Ira Wolf Tuton, Chris Keating and Anand Wilder create music that feels both old and new, a woven tapestry of sounds drawn from global influences and local trends—in their early days the group toured with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Chairlift and MGMT.

But there's a substantial difference between Yeasayer's tribal rhythms and sound conglomerations that sets them apart from their peers, in fact, the main critique of the band is their lack of consistency. But theirs is a studied diversity of sound, not a scattered disarray of songs, and their place in New York's rock scene over the past few years has been key.—Caitlin White

21. 31. Luna

Years Active: 1991–2005, 2012

NYC Lyric Reference: "SoHo has the boots / NoHo's got the crack / New England has the foliage / But I'm not going back" — "Slide"

Most New York Song: "Slide"

Luna is the louche older brother of '90s indie rock bands, the kind your earnest, well-meaning, Sebadoh-listening wife doesn't like you listening to. The group was Dean Wareham's baby, formed when his previous beloved indie group Galaxie 500 fell apart (in part because Wareham had bigger than indie ambitions) in the early '90s, and its sound and lyrics embraced a casual, friendly decadence that was still possible in Manhattan in the Clinton years, before bottle service and the Strokes and East Village condos became the norm. Their first album, 1992's Lunapark featured the group's first single, "Slide," with the aforementioned guide to the sides of Houston Street, but the sound didn't coalesce until 1994's Bewitched and '95's Penthouse.

Fun fact: Both the Grateful Dead and The Velvet Underground were originally named the Warlocks, and if any band could be said to combine elements of both, it's Luna: beautiful, melancholy melodies interspersed with flowing, dual guitar solos, underpinning lyrics like "You're out all night / Chasing girlies / You're late to work / And you go home earlies" (Okay, neither Lou nor Jerry would ever sing that, but bear with us). Eventually, not unlike your louche older brother, Luna kinda fizzled out (Wareham's marriage broke up when he fell in love with the band's new bassist, which doesn't really say anything about the group, it just fits the whole "louche older brother" metaphor we're working with here). But if you want the sonic equilvalent of what New York sounded like in the years between CBGB's punk heyday and its John Varvatos incarnation, you can do worse than this band.—Jack Erwin

22. 30. The Rapture

Years Active: 1998–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "The city breathing / The people churning / The conversating / The price is what?" — "Echoes"

Most New York Song: "Pieces of the People we Love"

The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" was the first release on the legendary DFA Records, and it was a masterpiece. Keeping the New York post-punk sound alive and injecting it with an energy fit for the dance floor, the song and following album epitomized a movement and sparked a style that would forever go down as part of the evolution of musical style that only New York City could create. It's not the kind of music that we'll look back on in 100 years and think, "Damn, The Rapture changed the world," but for every cool kid living at the start of the new century, their music captured a small slice of New York City culture that will undoubtedly have lasting effects.—Jacob Moore

23. 29. Le Tigre

Years Active: 1998–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Next stop / Atlantic Avenue / Next stop / Christopher Street / Next stop / Transfer to the / Next stop / A,C, or E" — "My My Metrocard"

Most New York Song: "After Dark"

Originally conceived as a backing band for riot grrrl founder Kathleen Hanna's side project Julie Ruin, the group soon assumed a life of their own, growing teeth and stripes as Le Tigre. Collaborators Sadie Benning and Johanna Fateman also dipped into other artistic pursuits—Benning a filmmaker and Fateman a zine creator—and they brought these visual and performative elements to the live shows. Thrown under the umbrella of the "eletroclash" genre, Le Tigre's mix of feminism and politics, left-leaning messages and support for LGBT communites, all over a foundation of innovative lo-fi rock made them a perfect representative of the New York community in the late '90s and early 2000s.—Caitlin White

24. 28. Blood, Sweat & Tears

Years Active: 1998–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Mama still remembers his eyes / Like a road map of New York City / She always had forgiven his lies / She loved that man and then he ran" — "Mama Gets High"

Most New York Song: "Spinning Wheel"

Al Kooper's idea to start a jazz-rock fusion band, heavy on the horns, resulted in the formation of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who released their debut album Child is Father to the Man Blood, Sweat & Tears rose to the top of the charts and even picked up the Grammy for Album of the Year—over Abbey Road! When the group embarked on a tour of Eastern Europe under the banner of the State Department though, they lost their counterculture edge, something essential for popular American bands in the Vietnam era. They released the records Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 and Blood, Sweat & Tears 4 before Clayton-Thomas left the group to pursue a solo career. Jerry Fisher replaced him for the band's greatest hits record, which went gold in 1972.

After this, a number of different iterations of BS&T were pulled together and even put out albums, including a late reformation that featured Clayton-Thomas for several more albums, but they could never fully regain their former glory and finally disbanded in 1981. The import of Blood, Sweat & Tears shouldn't be overlooked though, they brought the idea of jazz and big band formations into the realm of pop and rock charting records, an important infusion into the musical culture of New York City.—Caitlin White

25. 27. Galaxie 500

Years Active: 1987–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Sitting on a subway train and watching all the people lose their senses / Hiding in a parking lot and watching all the people fall in pieces / I don't mind, I think it's fine" — "Parking Lot"

Most New York Song: "Tugboat"

Dean Wareham, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang originally met at Dalton School, a college prep school in New York City, but they didn't begin making music together until all three attended Harvard. Around 1987 the trio began to play shows around both Boston and New York, and a demo they sent to Shimmer Disc's label executive Kramer caught his attention enough to agree to produce for the band. He recorded the single "Tug Boat" and "Oblivious" for them in 1988, and they put out their first record Today through the tiny label Aurora in the same year. Though My Bloody Valentine's 1991 masterpiece Loveless is often looked to as a touchstone of the "shoegaze" sound, Galaxie 500 too are early propagators of the gauze-thin, floating, warm pop-sound that hallmarks that sub-genre.

The band's other two records, 1989's On Fire and 1990's This Is Our Music were both released by Rough Trade, who went bankrupt in 1990—which meant no royalties and no more albums for the band. But Wareham had already announced that he was leaving the group to start his own project, what was later to become Luna, and both Yang and Krukowski went on to other ventures as well. In 1991 at a Rough Trade auction of assets, Krukowski bought the masters of Galaxie 500's records, which were later released through the Rykodisc label as a box set that included several live recordings. Though Galaxie is still overlooked by most of the mainstream, their impact on the entire east coast scene's slower pop rhythms, bright and sunny hooks and musical mindset is pivotal.—Caitlin White

26. 26. The Hold Steady

Years Active: 2004–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "New York gets pretty heavy, girl / I hope it doesn't crush you" — "Magazines"

Most New York Song: "Stuck Between Stations"

Craig Finn and The Hold Steady centered their idea of a band around the concept of The Band itself, an attempt to bring back music that emphasized narrative and classic guitar and rock sounds. Their debut album, 2004's Almost Killed Me was released on Frenchkiss records, noted as a sleeper hit that led to their eventual cover story in the Village Voice—the first rock band to get a cover in over a decade. This much-needed exposure for the group, who released their second album Separation Sunday in 2005, and then moved on to Vagrant records for the subsequent releases of Boys and Girls in America and Stay Positive, which Finn said he considers to be the band's creative peak.

Keyboardist Franz Nicolay left the group in 2010, and their last studio album with that lineup was released about a month later with Heaven is Wherever. The group later added a new guitarist, Steve Selvidge and are planning their next release. The impact of The Hold Steady was revivalist in some ways, as they rustled up the emblematic idea of a "bar band" and actually catapulted that concept to mainstream, commercial success.—Caitlin White

27. 25. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Years Active: 1991–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "I throw up my hands / San Francisco, Santa Cruz / And don't forget my home, number one / New York City" — "Sweat"

Most New York Song: "Money Rock'n'Roll"

After fronting the D.C.-based garage rock band Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer went on to form the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Originally jamming with his future collaborators Judah Bauer and Russell Simins in the group The Honeymoon Killers, soon the trio were playing on after rehearsals and began to create bluesy-sounding, smug songs. Spencer's adoption of a blues vocal style was somewhat affected, and the group took a while to settle into their new style, but when they did, they were highly successful.

The release of Extra Width in 1993 is considered their break-out album and from there the group, often referred to as JSBX, released a string of successful records under Matador's label. Throughout the '90s the group established themselves as central figures within New York's music scene, and records like Orange, Now I Got Worry and Acme were all successful for the band. Even up through last year, JSBX released a new record—Meat + Bone and played the festival All Tomorrow's Parties in England, remaining relevant both in the global and local scenes.—Caitlin White

28. 24. The Walkmen

Years Active: 2000–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "See me age 19 with some dumb haircut from 1960 / Moving to New York City / Live with my friends there / We're all taking the same steps / They're foolish now" — "We've Been Had"

Most New York Song: "The Rat"

The Walkmen are one of those bands that seem to have grown into themselves through their time in the Big Apple. Although their discography only stretches past the boundaries of a decade by three years, the five piece managed to assert their presence as a band with their own distinct sound that felt new, but kept them firmly in the rock genre. The Walkmen formed from the remnants of two other New York rock bands, Jonathan*Fireater and The Recoys, and except for one member are essentially the extension of a childhood band that fell together in the D.C. suburbs. It wasn't until the new millienium though that The Walkmen stepped into their current lineup, and proceeded to knock out six solid albums equally full of vintage piano and raucous guitar licks.—Caitlin White

29. 23. Agnostic Front

Years Active: 1980–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "HARDCORE! New York City! NEW YORK! / That's how we live it!" — "For My Family"

Most New York Song: "Police State"

Following the break-out punk rock and hardcore movement that erupted in New York in the prior decades, Agnostic Front was one of the bands to help define the second wave of punk. Drawing inspiration from groups like The Ramones and the streets of New York themselves, Agnostic Front was founded by Vinnie Stigma in the early 1980s, and vocalist Roger Miret who joined a little later helped personify their sound. The initial, independent EP they released, 1984's The United Pain laid the groundwork for their break-out album Victim in Pain, which is regarded as one of the most important albums in the New York hardcore sound.

The group became well-known for cresting the new punk movement, and for being skinheads who ascribed to radical sociopolitical ideals that they worked into their music. However, 1986's Cause for Alarm was much more influenced by thrash elements while their 1987 release Liberty and Justice For... featured metal elements. Miret was arrested for drugs in 1989, though the band tried to continue without him and toured Europe. But it was after his release that the group put out 1992's One Voice—most of the lyrics to which were written by Miret while in jail. Announcing an end to the band, their last show was recorded and released in 1993 as Last Warning. After only a few years, however, Stigma and Miret reformed Agnostic Front in 1996 to release six more studio albums and a number of EPs, compilations and live records. The importance of Agnostic Front for New York's hardcore scene is unmatched, even if it was partially their success that helped dismantle the roots of the radical movement.—Caitlin White

30. 22. The Strokes

Years Active: 2001–present

NYC Lyric Reference:"She just can't stop sayin' / New York City cops / New York City cops / New York City cops / They ain't too smart" — "New York City Cops"

Most New York Song: "Is This It"

After a lull in the garage rock movement, The Strokes were largely heralded as revivalists of the movement with their debut album Is This It in 2001. Most of the group initially met in Manhattan at school, lead singer Julian Casablancas, guitarist Nick Valensi, and drummer Fab Moretti all attended the Dwight School, and Casablanca connected bassist Nikolai Fraiture and Albert Hammond, Jr. with the group. The Strokes initially struck a chord with a UK fanbase, when Rough Trade released their EP Modern Love and sparked a huge record label bidding war, which RCA eventually won. In 2003, the group released Room on Fire and First Impressions of Earth in 2006, both which contributed to the band's continued commercial and critical success. In 2006 the group went on hiatus and most members worked on some sort of musical side project, but they just returned with 2013's Comedown Machine and remain one of the most celebrated rock bands of the new millennium.—Caitlin White

31. 21. Interpol

Years Active: 1997–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "New York cares / Got to be some more change in my life" — "NYC"

Most New York Song: "PDA"

Inarguably indebted to Joy Division, Interpol still managed to take their crime-fighting moniker and post-punk soundbytes to a level that superseded the sum of these parts in 2002 with their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights. The record was almost unanimously deemed a critical success and tracks like "NYC" reflected not just the realities of the city but the feel of the scene at the time as well. Interpol is one of those bands that managed to do big numbers in album sales and maintain a positive critical reception, but they never really topped the exictement and ingenuity of their initial record. Still, they're identifiable as forebearers of a very distinct subset of New York's indie rock scene and their influence can be felt even in brand new bands emerging in 2013—something that speaks to their compelling style.—Caitlin White

32. 20. Swans

Years Active:1982–1997, 2010–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "You Fucking People Make Me Sick"

Swans is one of the key bands in the post-punk movement, led by multi-instrumentalist and singer Michael Gira, like many NYC bands the group went through several line-up changes throughout the years, with Gira at the heart of all of them. They're one of the few bands to come out of the No Wave movement in New York and actually stay together through the ensuing years. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was an early collaborator with Swans, along with semi-constant members Norman Westberg, Jane Jarboe and many, many others. Known for their droning vocals and lengthy, repetitive song structures, Gira also wrote about taboo topics—violence, rape, morbidity and rage to name a few.

The band accrued an intensely loyal fan base in Europe, as well as some interest in the US as well. Their live shows were known for being so loud that fans would vomit or the police would come, and Gira was well-known for assaulting fans and physically confronting crowd members. In 1989 the group were offered a major label release via MCA, but The Burning World sold as little as 5,000 in the UK—the lowest numbers in the MCA catalogue yet, and was deleted from the catalogue. After various members of the group were focused on solo projects, Swans eventually re-convened and released The Seer last year, and their forthcoming plans are as yet undetermined.—Caitlin White

33. 19. Helmet

Years Active: 1989–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "Unsung"

Helmet was founded in New York in 1989 and was one of the alternative metal bands of the era to achieve mainstream success. Guitarist Page Hamilton is the only member who has been consistent throughout the many iterations of Helmet. A native Oregonian, Page moved to New York to study jazz but was caught up in the alternative tunings and post-punk influence of bands like Sonic Youth. Many considered Helmet to be the only group on the East coast comparable to bands like Soundgarden, or representative of the grunge movement. Signing to Interscope in 1992, the band released Meantime, their best-selling album to date, and though they released their first album Strap On in 1990, and several after their Interscope debut, their commercial success was limited. The group broke up in 1997 after the release of Aftertaste but reunited with most of the line-up in 2004 to release Size Matters After splitting from Interscope, they released two more albums. Helmet's impact is mostly cited as a link between indie rock and metal, and for introducing "smart" or thinking metal into the scene.—Caitlin White

34. 18. Living Colour

Years Active: 1984–1995, 2000–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "Open Letter to a Landlord"

Living Colour was founded by Vernon Reid as a natural extension of the Black Rock Coalition, a non-profit group designed to help Black musicians break into the rock music world. Their early years were filled with tumultuous line-ups and experimentation with jazz, funk and punk rock, but in 1986 the core members of the band stabilized and they released their debut album Vivid that spawned the hit song "Cult of Personality." Mick Jagger was an unlikely mentor that helped the band score a record deal with Epic, and also led to their stint opening for The Rolling Stones at several stadium shows in fall of 1989.

Their second release, 1990's Time's Up performed well but never lived up to their initial album's success, and their third record Stain was released in 1993 with even less success. Even so, the group's songs like "Funny Vibe" restored the rock song as a platform for a political message. Although the group officially broke up in 1995, they reunited in 2003 for the album Collideøscope and another in 2009 called Chair in the Doorway. Overall, the group won four Grammys and their unrelenting personal and political music helped pave the way for introducing challenging topics in songs that made it to the mainstream.—Caitlin White

35. 17. Anthrax

Years Active: 1981–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "Antisocial"

Alongside Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica, Anthrax was one of the most influential and popular groups on the thrash music scene—they combined the power and speed of heavy metal with the intensity of punk. Formed by Scott Ian and Danny Lilker in 1981, Anthrax was one of the first thrash punk groups to sign to a major label, joining Island records in 1985 and have released ten studio albums, twenty singles, and sold over 15 million records worldwide since—they're a huge band.

For those not as familiar with the thrash/punk scene, changing vocalist is pretty standard, and Anthrax has had a number of vocalists over the years, the three main ones being Neil Turbin, Joey Belladonna and John Bush. Anthrax have also been applauded for not taking themselves as seriously as their metal band contemporaries, and have touched on a number of genres over their ten albums including their initial thrash metal sound, grunge metal, alternative, and are even credited with helping to develop rap metal (thanks to a timely collaboration with Public Enemy) and nu metal.—Caitlin White

36. 16. Suicide

Years Active: 1970–present

NYC Lyric Reference:"Harlem Harlem baby / Harlem Harlem baby" — "Harlem"

Most New York Song: "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne"

Alan Vega and Martin Reve of Suicide practically initiated the concept of "synth pop" into the musical canon, although they have received very little credit for their role in the sound's inception. Vega and Reve were infamous for their intense, often violent interactions with the crowd, Vega's lyrics were confrontational and passionate at best—downright baiting at worst. Their first album, the self-titled Suicide is widely regarded as a proto-punk classic and numerous, highly-regarded musicians cite them as an influence, from Ric Ocasek of The Cars to Radiohead, R.E.M., Michael Gira and all the way down to Bruce Springsteen. Both Vega and Reve went on to record a number of solo albums, but it was in their collaborative work, as one of the first bands to ever label themselves "punk" that Suicide was a key part of New York's music legacy.—Caitlin White

37. 15. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers

Years Active: 1975–1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1990

NYC Lyric Reference: "Guardian angels are what we need / New York city police are so sweet" — "In Cold Blood"

Most New York Song: "Born to Lose"

After leaving the New York Dolls in 1975, Johnny Thunder went on to form his own group called The Heartbreakers alongside Richard Hell, who had also just left the band Television. Hell left after only one year, and The Heartbreakers, or Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers as they were often called, toured in London and gained notoriety there in the UK punk scene. After opening for the Sex Pistols, they signed to Track records and released their only record L.A.M.F. in 1977, which had a tepid reception at best and was generally considered to be poor quality. Many of the members left the band at this point, and though they never released another official record, several more recordings of live shows or takes on L.A.M.F.. The group was better known for extensive drug use than anything else, a factor which contributed to Johnny's untimley death in 1991. Still, The Heartbreakers were a key part of the New York punk scene, and their involvement in its formation was crucial despite their lack of commercial success or a lengthy discography.—Caitlin White

38. 14. LCD Soundsystem

Years Active: 2001–2011

NYC Lyric Reference: "New York, I love you but you're bringing me down / New York, you're safer / And you're wasting my time" — "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down"

Most New York Song: "All My Friends"

In New York City, there's a sometimes overwhelming feeling that everyone is trying to be cooler than you. Especially in music, some of the most cutting-edge bands are tragically hip, but James Murphy is past that. James Murphy is post-cool. In 2002, Murphy's LCD Soundsystem released their debut single, "Losing My Edge," and it summarized what the band would represent so well over the next decade. With punk ethos and dance music sensibility, LCD Soundsystem released three albums that felt important beyond scenes, trends, and image, and in doing so they, ironically, became one of the coolest bands in New York City history.—Jacob Moore

39. 13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Years Active: 2000–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Yeah Manhattan / Yeah New York / Yeah Big Apple!" — "Yeah New York"

Most New York Song: "Date With the Night"

Karen O's explosive voice seems destined for the stage and spotlight. She met future Yeah Yeah Yeah's member Nick Zinner at Oberlin College in Ohio and after tranferred to NYU where she met the third member of the trio Brian Chase. Karen and Brian were sharing a loft with members of what would become the band Metric at the time, but wanted to go in a slightly different direction than the group and began to experiment with their own sound, first trying an acoustic duo and then moving on. Chase soon joined the line-up and the group got a slot supporting The Strokes and The White Stripes, gaining a significant amount of buzz. In 2003 the group released their initial record Fever to Tell which garnered them a slew of critical praise, and their follow-up Show Your Bones which was met with similar praise. 2007's It's Blitz! and this year's Mosquito weren't as critically acclaimed, but certainly established the band as a key player in creating the New York City sound in the 2000s.—Caitlin White

40. 12. Cro-Mags

Years Active: 1981–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "Apocalypse Now"

The Cro-Mags were the first band to mix hardcore with heavy metal. It's a concept that seems like a given now, but their combination of the two scenes resulted in five albums and a serious cult following. The primary member in the group was bassist Harley Flannagan, who took over vocals when singer John Joseph left the band after their initial album, 1986's The Age of Quarrel. In fact, Flannagan has been the only consistent member of the line-up over the years—their varying cast of musicians was a big part of the reason Cro-Mags never gained the notoriety they deserved. Similarly to the way that DC-based group Bad Brains aligned themselves with Rastafarianism, Cro-Mags began to affiliate themselves strongly with the practices of the Hare Krishna faith. Putting out albums throughout the early '90s, Flannagan eventually left the group to form his own band, Harley's War, but couldn't shake his roots, naming their first album Cro-Mags.—Caitlin White

41. 11. TV on the Radio

Years Active: 2001–present

NYC Lyric Reference: N/A

Most New York Song: "Wolf Like Me"

TV on the Radio is one of the few bands whose sound can't really be pinpointed, although people try to throw "post" prefixes and "electro" compound words at their genre-bending sonics, nothing can fully sum it up. The band originated as a duo, Tunde Adebimpe and David Sitek recorded the Radiohead-glancing OK Calculator EP in early 2002, not adding Kyp Malone until 2003 for their second EP Young Liars. From the success of these two initial EPs, the group released a string of highly success and critically-acclaimed records, before announcing a hiatus in 2009 after the release of Dear Science. In early 2011, bassist Gerard Smith announced that he was suffering from lung cancer, and died about a month later in April of 2011. Although the group has yet to solidify their plans without Smith, who joined the group in 2005, they released a live album at the end of 2011 and are supposed to re-emerge this year to help curate the UK music festival All Tomorrow's Parties.—Caitlin White

42. 10. Steely Dan

Years Active: 1972–1981, 1993–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "An evening with a movie queen / A face we all have seen / Brooklyn owes the charmer under me" — "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)"

Most New York Song: "Daddy Don't Live in New York City No More"

Styled as anti-heroes, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were an integral part of the movement of music in the '70s. Influenced by jazz, R&B and funk alongside pop and rock, Steely Dan brought a breadth to their music that was unsurpassed in the decade of their popularity, and even now is hard to match. Their lyrical content is filled with puns, double entendres and intellectual commentary that ran the gamut as far as topics—sex, drugs, crime, illicit affairs and other taboo topics. Their name itself is taken from a specific strap on dildo named in William Burroughs' cult-classic novel Naked Lunch and their debut album Can't Buy a Thrill was released in 1972 to immense commercial and critical success. The record spawned the classic singles "Do It Again," "Reelin in the Years" and later, "Dirty Work."

Although they were plagued relentlessly with lawsuits and Fagen's stage fright, several of their other albums gained commercial success and they gained a cult following, especially during their later hiatus. The duo only toured from 1972—1974, opting for studio-only work after that and earning a reputation for obsessive perfectionism when recording. From 1981—1993 the two took a hiatus and didn't release another album together until 2000 with Two Against Nature that won them four Grammys. In 2003 they released Everything Must Go, their final album and have been planning a 2013 tour.—Caitlin White

43. 9. Simon & Garfunkel

Years Active: 1957–70, 1981–83, 2003–04, 2009–10

NYC Lyric Reference: "Da-n-da-da-n-da-n-da-da and here I am / The only living boy in New York" — "The Only Living Boy in New York"

Most New York Song: "Bleecker Street"

Whether or not Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were a part of your beloved record collection that of your parents, this folk duo is impossible to overlook. Not only did Simon & Garfunkel describe and detail what it felt like to be young, in love, broken-hearted and nostalgic, but they also painted a picture of life in New York that is nearly impossible to top. Whether it be the wide-eyed journeying of "America" or the heart-breaking loneliness of "Only Living Boy in New York" this pair are just about as New York as a slice or Lady Liberty herself.—Caitlin White

44. 8. New York Dolls

Years Active: 1971–1976, 2004–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Flyin around New York City so high / Like he was my baby" — "Jet Boy"

Most New York Song: "Subway Train"

Though The Ramones popularized pop punk, The New York Dolls had a heavy hand in the creation of punk rock, mixing glam rock and hard rock into one big melting pot and ensuring their place in New York's history as a beloved cult band. Johnny Thunders of the Heartbreakers was a key member in the group, along with fellow guitarist Rick Rivets, who was later replaced by Syl Sylvain, vocalist David Johansen, bassist Arthur Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. Murcia died during the group's first tour—opening for Rod Stewart—due to excessive drugs and alcohol use and was replaced by Jerry Nolan. The group's reputation for vulgarity and their cross-dressing initially detracted major labels, but they landed a deal with Mercury in 1974 that resulted in a commercial flop. After Mercury dropped the group and several more unsuccessful attempts to get re-signed, the band's members began to drop off to form other projects, but their groundwork of defiance and glam-punk aesthetic was permanently embedded into the NYC music scene.—Caitlin White

45. 7. Patti Smith Group

Years Active: 1971–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "I'm gonna be somebody, I'm gonna get on that train, go to New York City / I'm gonna be so big, I'm gonna be a big star and I will never return / Never return, no, never return, to burn at this Piss Factory" — "Piss Factory"

Most New York Song: "Because the Night Belongs to Us"

Patti Smith's impact on the New York arts scene is hard to sum up, but reading her recently releaesd book that details the years she and Robert Maplethorpe spent in iconic places like the Chelsea Hotel throws some light on her extensive legacy. The Patti Smith Group was formed solely to back Patti, who went back and forth between actual singing and performing spoken word poetry against a backdrop of music. It wasn't until her 1975 album Horses that Smith was regularly performing with a backing band instead of just guitarist/bassist Lenny Kaye. The group's second album Radio Ethiopia didn't perform as well on the charts, but it certainly helped stabilize Patti as a force to be reckoned with in the New York City music scene.—Caitlin White

46. 6. Television

Years Active: 1973–1978, 1992–1993, 2001–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "Broadway looked so medieval / It seemed to flap, like little pages" — "Venus De Milo"

Most New York Song: "Marquee Moon"

Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell were a pair of aspiring poets who met early on during their high school years in Hockessin, Delaware, and separately ran away to New York to pursue writing, forming Television along with Richard Lloyd in 1973. Although Hell left the band in 1975 to form The Heartbreakers, Television's lyrics still reflect a deep-seated interest in poetry, even if the intricate and innovative styles of guitar playing by Lloyd and Verlaine became a primary feature that identified their sound. Typified as art-punk pioneers, the band never really saw commercial success, but their work was always received well by critics who cited them as real rock and roll.—Caitlin White

47. 5. Talking Heads

Years Active: 1975–1991 (reunion: 2002)

NYC Lyric Reference: "Ten o'clock / Night time in New York / It's weird" — "Sax and Violins"

Most New York Song: "Life During Wartime"

In his recent book How Music Works Talking Heads front man David Byrne devotes a chapter to the idea of "How to Make A Scene." He has clearly spent considerable time pondering the band's evolution from their earliest gigs at the NYC club CBGBs to worldwide pop stars. He refers to "that special moment when a creative flowering seems to issue forth from a social nexus—a clump of galleries, a neighborhood, or a bar that doubles as a music club." He lists eight key ingredients, including social transparency, cheap rent, and free beer.

Elsewhere in the book he reflects on how the dearly departed rock dive served as a springboard for the band. "Once we began playing at CBGB, we also got gigs at other venues in Lower Manhattan—Mothers, Max's Kansas City, and eventually the Mudd Club. We played somewhere almost every week but held on to our day jobs,. Mine was being a movie theater usher on 34th street, which was perfect as the first show wasn't until 11 or 12. We didn't always get much sleep, but the band got pretty tight."—Rob Kenner

48. 4. Blondie

Years Active: 1974–1982, 1997–present

NYC Lyric Reference: "New York isle is covered by grey / Concrete piles, blues play my way" — "In the Sun"

Most New York Song: "Dreaming"

Deborah Harry's impact on music is extremely hard to measure. Relegated to the realm of "the '80s" for the last 20 years, it's only recently that her influence on girl-fronted rock bands as the frontwoman of Blondie has really been acknowledged. Along with guitarist Chris Stein, Harry played with a rotating cast until their lineup solidified around 1975 and they thankfully changed the band's name from "Angel and the Snake" to Blondie after catcalls Harry would receive. The former playboy bunny catapulted the group to their iconic status by projecting the perfect balance of sexiness, awareness and ditziness—though few at the time probably realized that this character was mostly affected. From the disco waves of "Heart of Glass" to the violent desperation of "Call Me" Blondie both embodied and had a hand in the glamor that invaded NYC in the '70s and '80s—and her legacy is both quintessentially New York and one hundred percent girl power.—Caitlin White

49. 3. Sonic Youth

Years Active: 1981–2011

NYC Lyric Reference: "L.A. is more confusing now, than anywhere I've ever been to / I'm from New York City, breathe it out and let it in" — "Skip Tracer"

Most New York Song: "NYC Ghosts & Flowers"

Sonic Youth is one of those bands that everyone has heard of, even if they aren't 100% familiar with their material. The New York rockers were affiliated with the No Wave scene early on, but soon drifted into the realms of hardcore punk and noise rock, establishing new norms of instrument modification and unusual song structure that played with the avant-garde. Although Sonic Youth have never had a single go gold, nor have they ever even landed a single in the hot 100, they are unanimously cited as a centrifugal force in both New York and rock itself. Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo all took a turn at songwriting, and though most point to 1988's Daydream Nation as their classic album, other stand-outs like No Star and even 2009's The Eternal fully reveal the group's creative breadth.—Caitlin White

50. 2. The Ramones

Years Active: 1974–1996

NYC Lyric Reference: "New York City, N.Y.C. / Pretty mean when it wants to be" — "R.A.M.O.N.E.S."

Most New York Song: "Rockaway Beach"

Although "pop punk" is a pretty broad genre with a million mommas and poppas, The Ramones were the first group to take all the reference points—sugary-sweet girl group harmonies mixed with heavy metal riffs, sped up to 78 rpms—and fully embody this sound. Hailing from Forest Hills, Queens, the group solidified around 1974 and began playing the key local New York City venue—CBGB's. Their black leather shtick and aggressive, noisy/sweet short bursts of sound were so divergent from the laid-back grooves of the '70s that the group immediately stood out. Whereas their fellow CB's brethren and sistren Blondie and Television and Talking Heads brought poetry to punk, the Ramones were simply punks, more liable to chew out a rhythm on their bubble gum getting wasted at Rockaway Beach (before Rockaway Beach was hip) than naming themselves after French poets.

The band quickly grew in fame and acclaim, especially as the punk movement took off not just in America but in the UK as well (the Ramones were a big influence on a couple of British bands you may have heard of, the Sex Pistols and the Clash). The group survived in various iterations for close to a quarter century based on touring and their initial influence (their highest charting album was 1980's End of Century that came in at 44). If all 300 people who bought the Velvet Underground's first album went on to form bands, about 30% of the people who bought the Ramones first albums went on to form bands—and the people who bought their albums, and those bands' albums after that, went on to sell 300 million records.—Jack Erwin

51. 1. Velvet Underground

Years Active: 1964–1973, 1990, 1992–1994, 1996

NYC Lyric Reference: "Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station / You know, she don't believe what she heard at all / She started shakin' to that fine fine music / You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll" — "Rock & Roll"

Most New York Song: "Sunday Morning"

It's a hard task to imagine the New York rock and roll scene without The Velvet Underground—hell, it's hard to imagine rock and roll itself without Lou Reed and John Cale. After Andy Warhol took the band under his wing and installed them as the house band at his studio the Factory, their position in the art scene of New York in the '60s was set. Their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico was released in 1967, and though it didn't sell many copies—30,000—Brian Eno is famous for declaring that everyone who purchased one started a band themselves. Andy Warhol's iconic cover art, the pop art banana, the myserious Nico, the band's naked honesty with regard to taboo topics like drugs, paranoia, and gender-questioning—all these things added to the mythology that surrounds the band.

What's ironic is that the mythology has clouded just how good a band VU was. The group released four studio albums in its lifetime, all masterpieces in their own right: Nico, an avant garde milestone featuring viola, minimalist ur-Meg White drumming, and the aforementioned forthcoming lyrics; White Light/White Heat, a proto-punk, proto-metal, proto-industrial signpost; Velvet Underground, the most demented folk album in music history; and Loaded a beautifully misguided attempt at stardom (it was supposed to be "loaded" with hits) that sounded like classic rock, only more debauched.

The Velvets were also the New Yorkiest of New York bands. Sure, there's the "New York station" on "Rock and Roll" and "up to Lexington, 1-2-5" on "Heroin," but beyond the lyrical references, VU just sounded like New York: "Sister Ray" sounds like a NYC subway, "Candy Says" sounds like a late night argument in an airless midtown high-rise apartment, and if you've ever walked around the Lower East Side as the sun came up on after a night on the town, you know what the bitter, bittersweet vibes on "Sunday Morning" sound like.—Jack Erwin