The only thing better than singing along to your favorite indie classics is being able to play them yourself. If your instrument of choice is the ukulele, you’re in luck—some of the genre’s most iconic hits can be played with only a few basic chords. Here are ten songs that you can master in no time, whether you started the uke as a quarantine hobby or you’ve been jamming out for years. This is a follow-up to our previous article on classic rock songs for the ukulele.
“Young Folks,” Peter Bjorn and John
It only makes sense for us, the Young Folks, to include “Young Folks” on our list. This laid-back track was Peter Bjorn and John’s big breakout back in 2006, and it still holds up today. Feel free to whistle along as you play.
“Little Talks,” Of Monsters and Men
When “Little Talks” hit the radio waves back in 2012, it was immediately recognizable by its horn section—but it’s the song’s chords that create its distinctive ominous feel. Don’t forget to speed up as you crescendo to the chorus.
“Home,” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
What early 2010s indie kid didn’t want to run away with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros while watching the band’s joyous music video for “Home”? Alas, that might not be a viable option, but you can get the next best experience by learning the legendary track on the uke.
Bring back the ethos of the Belle Epoque by playing “1901,” an ode to one of the most optimistic periods in Paris. In keeping with its theme, the song is pretty upbeat, so you’ll have to change chords quickly. Thankfully, the finger placements themselves are fairly rudimentary.
“Ho Hey,” The Lumineers
The uke is well suited for romantic ballads, and “Ho Hey” certainly fits this description. With lyrics like “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart,” it’s just as soft and simple as the instrument itself.
“Sleepyhead,” Passion Pit
“Sleepyhead” isn’t the most obvious choice for the ukulele. A chaotic melange of sounds that layers both a traditional Irish song and a Jack Kerouac recording over a booming electronic beat, it has more in common with today’s hyperpop genre than the folksy ballads of some of Passion Pit’s contemporaries. Nevertheless, it sounds gorgeous stripped down.
“Something Good Can Work,” Two Door Cinema Club
When Two Door Cinema Club said, “Something good can work, and it can work for you,” were they talking about learning one of their most infectious hits on the uke? Probably not, but they might as well have been—this one’s a breeze. Given its uplifting lyrics and major-key melody, you’re sure to find yourself smiling as you rock out.
“New Slang,” The Shins
“New Slang” has been an indie rock staple since Natalie Portman claimed, “You gotta hear this one song—it’ll change your life” in the 2004 romcom Garden State. It’s not exactly a ukulele staple yet, but with its easygoing rhythm and only four chords, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
“Two Weeks,” Grizzly Bear
Everybody loves “Two Weeks.” The song has been featured in everything from How I Met Your Mother to Gossip Girl and sampled by the likes of Childish Gambino, Chiddy Bang, K. Flay, and G-Eazy. Now you, too can show your appreciation for this Grizzly Bear masterpiece by learning it on the uke.
“Naive,” The Kooks
The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard has a way of making you feel his pain with every note—and that’s especially true in “Naive,” in which he chronicles a lover’s betrayal over a deceptively buoyant beat. Channel his emotion as you strum.