Friday Top 5: Small Indie Labels

It’s been a good couple of years for the majority of indie labels, with vinyl making a comeback and people appreciating good music.  And while there are some great stalwart indie labels such as Merge, Matador, Slumberland or Secretly Canadian, there’s a whole other tier of labels that have begun to blossom beneath the radar.  I wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on these smaller labels, knowing myself that brand loyalty to record labels is huge in the music industry.

As a young kid, my love for Green Day (the early years) made me a devout fan of Lookout!, which later led to my man crush with Ted Leo.  Or, we can talk about how my awkward emo  years gave way to undying devotion for anything being put out by Vagrant.  Yeah, I even bought that shitty Reggie and the Full Effect record. You see, some people will follow you as long as you’ve got their trust in what you’re putting out, so I wanted to highlight some of my favorite labels in the world.  As we start our own label here at ATH, it’s important to look around and see what makes a great label great.  So here it is, my top five heavy-hitters in the smaller indie record label arena.

5. Soliti Music:

Soliti Music is a fairly new label on the scene; they are based out of Helsinki, Finland. Being from that region, they’ve got their finger on bands that aren’t getting a lot of press in the U.S., but who kick a lot of ass  nonetheless. I came to find the label after discovering they had picked up Cats on Fire for their third release, and I went backwards from there.  In my research I discovered great gems like Big Wave Riders, The New Tigers and Black Twig.  There’s no defined sound from the label, just excellent track for you all to enjoy.

Big Wave Riders – Waiting in the Wings
Cats on Fire – My Sense of Pride

4. Dirtnap Records:

Dirtnap Records has been one of my favorite labels this year, but they’ve been around for quite some time.  As a person dabbling in my own label, I like their model: they started out working with only local talent like the great Exploding Hearts, then they sort of expanded to follow their tastes.  Lately they’ve been focusing on high energy punk rock of the happier sort, even helping out some of our favorite Texas punks like Bad Sports or Mind Spiders.  Perhaps one of my favorite albums of the year, Sonic Avenues’  Television Youth, also came into my record collection via Dirtnap. Pretty sure that I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve gotten from this label…not a single complaint.

The Exploding Hearts – You’re Black and Blue
Sonic Avenues – Television Youth

3. Chapter Music:

I began looking to Australian label Chapter Music a few years ago when I discovered The Crayon Fields, and I reached out to label owners Ben and Guy.  They’ve been super generous and kind, but that’s not the only reason I adore the label.  You can take their solid stable of bands such as Twerps, Dick Diver, or The Crayon Fields (ft. Geoffrey O’ Connor), but when you see the bands live, they sort of carry the attitude of Chapter Music on the stage.  Their bands are extremely humble, humorous and talented, and that’s the mentality that pervades the label itself.  When you get talented bands together with excellent people, you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.  Combine that with the continuing success of Australian bands, and these guys are going to continue to rise.

Twerps – Who Are You
The Crayon Fields – All the Pleasures of the World

2. Whats Your Rupture?:

What’s Your Rupture has been my savior for several years, being the only record label with enough smart sense to sing Comet Gain, one of my all time favorite acts.  Through my discovery of the label, they’ve continued to excite me with their diversity and quality selections.  Kevin Pedersen is the man behind the label, and while he loves to put out great new bands such as Royal Headache, he’s also not afraid to dig into the back catalogue of a group he loves in order to work out a re-issue, like he recently did with The Tronics.  He’s also got a little side-label called Krazy Punx to help promote his love of good punk rock.  The label scored big last year when they released the US version of Iceage‘s New Brigade LP.  Kevin’s studious Internet browsing has led to a refined taste like few others out there.  Solid label run by a solid dude. NBD.

Comet Gain – An Arcade From the Warm Rain That Falls
Royal Headache – Girls

1. Matinee Recordings:

Oh Matinee Recordings, how I love thee.  I’m a nerdy indie pop fan, and if you can toss me a hook, you can win over my heart.  Matinee, well, the label pretty much encompasses everything I love about indie pop.  Their back catalog has the glorious works of The Lucksmiths, but owner Jimmy isn’t just going to rest on the old school; he’s got recent heavy hitters like Strawberry Whiplash, Norther Portrait, and the US release of Cats on FireMatinee scours the world looking for the best in the purest pop, which is probably how they signed an act like Azure Blue.  I can’t really say enough positive things about the label, but if you walk into my music room, you’ll see a mighty collection devoted solely to Matinee and Jimmy.  Like I said, some labels just hit the right spot, and this label has successfully won my devotion over the last several years; I know they’ll keep it up.

The Lucksmiths – Get To Bed Birds
Northern Portrait – Life Returns to Normal

Just because these are my favorites doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of smaller indie labels that I don’t love and respect.  Others that were bubbling just under such as Modern Outsider, Old Flame, DoucheMaster also get my devotion. Be sure to check out all these great labels, and maybe fill me in on some others that I might have missed or overlooked. I love good tunes, so I’m always happy to find people who put that stuff out.


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