A Lesson On Labels

This was originally published in The Water Tower, a weekly satirical paper based in Burlington, VT.

Are you lost in a sea of irony and humor (Uninhabitable Mansions? Secretly Canadian? In the Red?) Well, here’s what you need to know about the top-dogs of the rock-label world.

Sub Pop: Let’s start with the biggest and baddest of them all. These guys are the Al Pacino’s of record labels – powerful, prolific, and a little scary (more Godfather, less Gigli…yes, Al Pacino was in this tragedy). They’ve covered the map on big-names in the little-world of ‘indie rock.’ They’re home to dozens of break-out bands with new releases – Blitzen Trapper, Dum Dum Girls, Fleet Foxes, Male Bonding, Washed Out….the list goes on and on.

If you’re craving some quasi-mainstream, heavily produced, but overall decent sounding records, check out Sub Pop for bands that can and will be heard in Urban Outfitters.

Hardly Art: If you thought I was kidding before, prepare to be dazzled. Hardly Art, a funky label with bands for the more adventurous, is actually Sub Pop’s better-looking younger sister. Founder of Sub Pop, Jonathan Poneman, chose to explore his freaky side back in 2007 and start a new label – none other than our savior from the mongrel, Hardly Art. Artists on this label range from the loveable Hunx & His Punx (50s doo-wap nasal-pop) to Le Loup (hypnotic experimental orchestral rock). Hardly Art’s got all the right fix-in’s to make for some tasty tunes.

Take a walk on the creative side, dance around to some garage or anything else that sounds like it could have been recorded in a dive bar, get in your johnnies and make friends with Hardly Art.

Kill Rock Stars: Now we’re getting down to brass-tacks. Kill Rock Stars has been around for ages – since 1991 – and that means it’s as old as I am, so if you’re not sold by now you should be. Elliott Smith (RIP) was on this label, along with the bodacious beauties otherwise known as Bikini Kill. We’re talking about legends here. Even avant-garde resident-weirdos Xiu Xiu find a comfortable niche on KRS, right next to their experimental cousins, Deerhoof. I’ve only named a few of the killer bands (hardy-har) on this label, but from that sampling you should be able to tell that this label means bis-naz.

Like fine wine or you’re friend’s mom who’s a cougar, Kill Rock Stars only gets better with age. Czech it out for all the bands you may have missed in your infantile years.

Matador: Another wonderful label that’s brought us some scrumptious candies this year – Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, Thurston Moore’s Demolished Thoughts, Stephen Malkmus & and the Jicks’ Mirror Traffic – and even more awesome stuff from yesteryear. Remember Ted Leo & the Pharmacists? I do. What about A.C. Newman? Belle and Sebastian? And dare I say it, Interpol!? Yep, Matador’s got those too. Matador and I have been in a serious relationship since 9th grade, going strong for 7 years now, and he’s never let me down, not once. Call me biased, but any label with Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo, is a friend (or in this case estranged lover) of mine. Wowee Zowee, Matador, you make me swoon.

A label for the decades. Matador knows what to say to make everything alright. Polygamous relationships are welcome.