Intriguing Record Labels 2015
by Walter Price
This past year was a further education in what the newer music landscapes are becoming.I have no reservations with my thoughts here and understand that this short list of standouts are not the end all be all but rather the companies and or scenes I found intriguing in 2015. A couple made my list and The GTC reader’s choice poll this time last year and you’ll agree all below are cool, understanding of the work and artists they rep and at the end of the day are the future of this thing we call the music business.
This list isn’t in a numeric order but instead a level field of appreciation. You can vote at the end of the page for your choice of label of the year.
BREAKUP RECORDS (Portland, OR USA)
2015 Highlights: bed., Dangermaker, Heartwatch, NRVS LVRS, TAXES, Fake Your Own Death (El Terrible)
This small label out of Portland, OR and scenes beyond that was voted Coolest Label 2014 last year and rightly so. 2015 was no slouch for the small community of indiie artists label heads Sierra and Alex Haager are building. These two aren’t just small business owners but they live and work in the music scenes they support. Making music, running a PR firm and working their asses off to have the world hear what they hear.
Breakup also has the notable distinction of not having one wasted space on their roster, this is rare. With all of their releases of the past year hitting the spot in varied styles of music, personalities and growing acclaim. I won’t on purpose single out any one act from Breakup at this time but I can say with ease most of the acts on this label could be the next international “it’.
NAPALM RECORDS (Austria / Worldwide)
2015 Highlights: Mammoth Mammoth, Powerwolf, W.A.S.P.
This really isn’t a pure indie label per se but this is a label that has made a home for all things metal and harder edged rock n roll for like forever. Not to mention the fringe genres that have a following beyond belief and that is cool even if it isn’t your thing. A roster so varied you’ll find the over the top and wonderfully entertaining dramatics of Powerwolf, the coming release of the new Geenleaf album and the label that released the thunderous whiskey stained rock juggernaut that is Mammoth Mammoth IV Hammered Again. Nothing says pure Aussie rock and grit like these boys who know how to take it to the edge and dangle you off the side of their raw power and leave you begging for more.
2015 Highlights: Feral Cinservatives, Lucy Dacus, The Diamond Center
This is a new label for me, I first heard about them when they released the ultra nice and future of indie Feral Conservatives The Feeling Noise Becomes EP and I later found the sounds of Lucy Dacus and The Diamond Center. This label seems to thrive on the right side of artist understanding and foregoes a certain sound and lets what is be and I like that. Being able to have and utilize open ears in the pursuit of letting acts who may or may not find a home on the major label machine grow in their own arenas is righteous. Bravo Egghunt!
GLITTERHOUSE RECORDS (Germany)
2015 Highlights: The White Birch, SEA + AIR, Rocky Votolato, Scott Matthew
Before I moved to Germany their was always a rumbling about this larger of the indie labels doing great work with acts that some would call more mature in sounds. Real artistic sorts who move in more cerebral circles if that is even a thing but the label does have more than their share of fantastic songwriters and musicians on their roster. The list too vast to list and the label knows that just signing an act just to be associated with their work doesn’t work. The Glitterhouse team works meticulously nurturing and supporting their label family and it seems to be a recipe for success as their acts are crtiics faves and international award winners in so many categories it would baffle most.
I think it safe to say all label start-ups should study how Glitterhouse does things and follow suit.
2015 Highlights: Alles gut
For better than a decade now the record label system has been learning to adapt to the digital age and failing in most areas and that is no new news to you and I. The ease of a bedroom singer-songwriter, producer or what have you getting their blood, sweat and tears assembled wares out to the world is simply amazing and further proof that this internet thing has some value after all. 2015 saw so many self/DIY releases that surpass nearly anything the majors are shoving down our throats. It is beyond remarkable.names like Lovers Electric, Maija Sofia, Cole Washburn, Lungs and Limbs, Strobegirl, The Electric Alley just to name a very short list of those who killed it nearly all on their own.
Labels will probably never leave this earth but when artists can and will continue to do it on their own, labels should really start to understand more the people they’re signing. Not looking at them as monetary machines bur as the flesh, blood and souls they really are.
Have a vote please, poll comes down 5 January 2016