I have always had favorite record labels...starting back when my allowance stopped buying baseball cards and started going towards vinyl and tapes. I look back fondly at the days when I would send an order form, and well hidden cash, to Dischord Records...only to repeat that same process and send envelopes to Revelation, Victory, Merge, Tooth & Nail, and Sub Pop. I would hear one band on a label, then pine for more...like a little indie-rock sponge. (I am sure if "scene points" would have counted back then I would have amassed a ton of them.) Many of the albums I ordered have become some of my favorite. Albums by Snapcase, Fugazi, Youth Of Today, Superchunk, SunnyDayRealEstate, and Starflyer 59...all got me through my awkward high school days, and not surprisingly still get my through my awkward 30's. One label that I was particularly fond of was SubPop...mostly for the sheer variety of music they put out. Where Dischord was a little too scene specific (not a bad thing), SubPop seemed to have a little bit of everything...from harder stuff like Soundgarden, to the mellower indie stuff like Jale and The Spinanes. It was that randomness that depleted much of my extra cash...and filled my shelves with hours of musical goodness. Despite me getting older I am still impressed with their output...so without any more fan-boy gushing I give you my top 7 SubPop releases.
- Sunny Day Real Estate - "Diary": It was (and still is) like nothing I had heard before. I could write essays on why this album is amazing...the vocals, the music...where to begin? Everyone who bought this album eventually started a band, myself included.
- The Spinanes - "Strand": This was my first introduction to the rock "duo" ("where's the bass player?" my teen-aged brain wondered). Light-years before Matt & Kim, The Spinanes were dropping indie-pop gems with just one guitar, and one drum kit. To this day Rebecca Gates is still one of my favorite vocalists.
- Velocity Girl - "Simpatico": I got way into indie-pop stuff, and Velocity Girl nailed that sub-genre for me. The guitars jangled, and the melodies were syrupy sweet. This record personified "college" rock, and they reminded me of The Posies with a girl singing...and I love me some Posies.
- The Afghan Whigs - "Gentlemen": I fell for the music...a mixture of post-punk edginess and motown soul. Greg Dulli sounded like a man possessed, writhing over a barrage of big guitars, and even bigger drums. This album had everything...lyrics...music...melody...and rage.
- The Murder City Devils - "Broken Bottles, Empty Hearts": I had soured on most "punk" that had been coming out...until I heard this. It was danceable, it was dark, and it was pissed off. 3 aspects of this record that hooked me. If this had been purchased on cassette I would have easily worn out 4-5 copies of it. Easily...
- Band Of Horses - "Cease To Begin": It was one part Beach Boys, with a little Eagles mixed in (minus the usual "suck" factor that is associated with anything "Eagles".). The songs had an ethereal quality to them...and the arrangements were about as close to perfect as you could get. Hearing this record truly blew my mind...it was inspiring and accessible.
- The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Munki": Maybe the Reid brothers were in the twilight of their career, but this record is still one of my favorites by them. It's fuzzed out pop...fueled by beer, cigarettes, sibling rivalry, and shoe-gazing. TJAMC are hard to top...and I was glad to see SubPop release it.
Buy these records...thank me later.
Note: Narrowing it down to 7 releases by a seminal label like SubPop is difficult. These are MY favorite albums...and I'm still leaving out records by Jale, Red House Painters, The Gutter Twins, Godheadsilo, Jeremy Enigk, Damien Jurado, and The Album Leaf. There will have to be a "part 2"...