21 Dec 2015

5 favourite record labels of 2015

Record labels are something that - since watching High Fidelity for the first time and a Creation records documentary in the same evening - I've always paid the utmost attention to, aspiring to one day have a modest one of my own. So this year, I've had a think about what my favourite labels are, and which of those have done me the most favours in 2015 in terms of brightening up my record collection. Here's five labels that have made my year...

1. SUB POP (and it's Seattle-subsidary Hardly Art)
Seattle label Sub Pop might still be most notorious for being the place that put out Nirvana's debut record (Bleach is still their best selling release), but it's 2015 output has actually been amazing. First things first, Sub Pop put out a number of albums that made our albums of the year list - Beach House's Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, Father John Misty's I Love You Honeybear and Sleater-Kinney's No Cities To Love (all fairly obvious choices) - which is always a positive, but in the form of Strange Wilds' Subjective Concepts they've also put out one of the most promising debuts of the year.

Sub Pop are also in charge of Hardly Art records, which is a smaller label mainly pumping out albums by bands from Seattle. This has been my absolute #1 in 2015, and I've only really lumped it in with Sub Pop because they'd be my #1 and #2. Hardly Art put out Chastity Belt's Time To Go Home, one of my favourite albums in the world right now, as well as the highly acclaimed Agent Intellect album by dark rock band Protomartyr (who you've probably heard a few times if you listen to Iggy Pop's radio show). Also they put out Colleen Green's I Want To Grow Up which is a really great, attitudey grunge-pop records that basically sounds like what Courtney Love would sound like if she was more into candyfloss than she was cocaine.  Some album I've really loved this year have come from these labels, and you should give them all a listen.

Sacred Bones is an NYC label that deals in psychedelia and other oddball genres, and I think looking back at their release list this year, I'm going to assume its their best ever; Moon Duo's latest record, Moonlust by The Holydrug Couple, Follakzoid's III, Jenny Hval's stunning Apocalypse, girl and Marching Church's debut album. It's a psychedelic list you just can't argue with, with my favourites probably being the primal groove of III and the celestial dreaming that The Holydrug Couple's album propels you into (incidentally, both these artists are from Chile, which is cool - I've heard a lot about Chile's psych scene). It's definitely not a stretch of the imagination to say that the most interesting guitar music released this year has come from this label, and with their distinctive stylised sleeves, I can't wait to get more of them next year...

A month or two ago I met the founder and operator of this label, Simon Raymonde (formerly of the Cocteau Twins I might add),  and he was every bit as cool as this label... Bella Union is next on the list for the sheer volume of brilliant, magical or just plain solid albums they've put out this year; maybe a list of these will suffice as to why they absolutely kick ass as a label. They released Beach House's two masterworks in the UK, as well as Mercury Rev's Light In You, Ezra Furman's Perpetual Motion People, PINS' Wild Nights and John Grant's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. That is one hell of a back catalogue, ay? Bar the John Grant album, all of those are pretty far up our end of year lists, and each album I've heard from this label in 2015 has been wonderful. And having just received a promo of the MONEY album out in January, I'm sure 2016 will rule for Bella Union too.

In the pantheon of indie labels, Rough Trade is always there or thereabouts, being pretty fundamental in birthing, sustaining and revitalising indie music since it's 70s inception. This year, their releases were stellar as ever, including some of my favourite indie albums of the year. Girl Band's Holding Hands With Jamie was every bit as scorching as it promised to be - post-punk mayhem, about as fresh as guitar music got this year. Other great albums included Micachu & the Shapes' Good Bad Happy Sad and jennylee's right on!, which are another two really great albums, and Parquet Courts weirdo Monastic Living EP came out there too... Palma Violets' follow up to their 180 album, which is quite divisive, came out here too, but I'm not here to pass comment on it.

London's coolest indie label, last year I'd think maybe they were my favourite label of the year, with near classic records like TOY's Join the dots, The Wytches' Annabel Dream Reader and King Gizzard's I'm In Your Mind Fuzz that couldn't quite be topped this year. However, 2015 was also bloody good, with the best albums they put out probably being the second Stealing Sheep album, Y Dydd Olaf by Gwenno, and the Hooton Tennis Club debut being the picks of the bunch. As always, I think Heavenly will be ones to keep a really close eye on in 2016...

Obviously these are just a few of the great labels making a splash in 2015, and if you're interested in these labels and more visit the Indie Label Market next time it's in town (and do all you can to support them). Oh, and if you're one of these labels reading this, that might want to employ an overenthusiastic student to make cups of tea, drop us an email...

(written by calum cashin)