10 Current Favorite Labels
Now, I imagine many have heard about the shocking Sony payola scandal , and like me, was aghast to find that the likes of Audioslave and Who-The-Fuck-Ever-Else did not garner airplay based on their talent! My conspiracy is that the payola thing is merely a diversion of the real horror plaguing the music world: that the same dwindling number of corporations that own all the record labels also own the robots that program the music, so payola was mimicked to make you think there was someone, anyone making a choice out there.
But really corporate omnipresence is so omnipresent, that really, none of this is shocking. What floors me is that I, who slaves at my keyboard to sift through the sand for little nuggets of gold, am not in on the take! Outside of the promo CD's its just a thanks and a smile. Where are the hookers and trays of coke? Where are my embarrassing meet-and-greets where I flaunt my power and make Dave Navarro let me ride him like a horsey around the green room? Its like what Johnny Rotten, in one the last moments of his tenure as singer of one of the most notorious manufactured boy bands ever, said to his audience, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
But, like a member in good standing of the service economy, I toil on with purpose, assured that once Alarcon and Lamont get all my paperwork straight in Human resources, I'll finally get that check. Meantime, I offer up my favorite record labels that reside off the corporate grid, and what they can do to garner my favor:
Proposed Motto: The Feel-Good Doom Metal Label of the Summer
Notable Members: Sunn O))), Boris, Saint Vitus
Outstanding Characteristics: Brilliant over the top packaging, pushing the grand tradition of metal graphics, most notable is that of label founder Steven O'Malley, hippest designer going and member of main band Sunn O))). Southern Lord is the go-to source for the latest innovations in intelligent metal, but be prepared for a slow menacing ride, filled with earth rattling subharmonics and the rumble of Good Ole Satan.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Sunn O))) - White 1
Proposed Payola Scheme: They can put in a good word for me in Hell, for when I eventually end up there.
Proposed Motto: This What That History Professor Does At Night
Notable Members: Simon Joiner, Richard Youngs, Okkervil River, Magnolia Electric Co
Outstanding Characteristics: These two labels are housed at the same address in Bloomington , IN and are here to prove that the finest strains of indie weirdness are in the least expected places. They deal in singer-songwriters and their bands that instead of wanting to be Glen Campbell want to be Glenn Branca, infusing heartfelt music and lyrics with some of the most engaging racket and wildest ideas.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Richard Youngs - Sapphie
Proposed Payola Scheme: They put me up in the Bloomington Ramada for a week and ply my favor with unlimited buttered corn and country ham.
Proposed Motto: Roots Rock for Actual Smart People
Notable Members: Drive-By Truckers, John Hiatt, Alice Cooper (yep, that Alice Cooper)
Outstanding Characteristics: They would win by having the best rock band in the world, DBT, on the label, but every release from them is a marriage of great packaging and intelligent Americana that isn't afraid to slink around all shitty drunk and poetic.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Drive By Truckers - Decoration Day
Proposed Payola Scheme: A standing offer that DBT's Patterson Hood would assassinate a person of my choosing (perhaps Don Henley), then write a great song about it and sing it to my wife.
Proposed Motto: Where Ailing Careers Go To Stop Dying
Notable Members: Robyn Hitchcock, Dave Alvin, Bob Mould
Outstanding Characteristics: Excellent roster of artists that defy the times and continue to create some fine music even now that the spotlight is no longer shining upon them
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Robyn Hitchcock - Spooked
Proposed Payola Scheme: I get to take Robyn Hitchcock to the sea of human detritus that is the Louisiana State Fair and I get to tape his copious commentary.
Proposed Motto: We Are Still Cooler Than Your Label
Notable Members: Pavement (pre-Matador), Bonnie Prince Billy, Weird War, Jim O'Rourke
Outstanding Characteristics: The hippest indie rock out there that still has not gone completely up its own ass.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: tie between Jim O'Rourke - Insignificance and Bonnie Prince Billy/ Matt Sweeney - Superwolf
Proposed Payola Scheme: Aw nothing, I'm just happy hanging out around the office in case anyone drops by (fidgets, looks at ceiling nervously)
Proposed Motto: Psychedelia - It's Not Just For Hippies Anymore
Notable Members: Animal Collective, Ariel Pink
Outstanding Characteristics: Some of the most delicate yet powerful hallucinatory music going, whether it be Animal Collective's campfire shaman boogie or Ariel Pink pretending to be the transistor radio time machine in your plastic soul. Its powerful stuff.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: tie between Ariel Pink - The Doldrums and Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
Proposed Payola Scheme: Just come anywhere near Baton Rouge sometime and out weird us for a change.
Proposed Motto: We Are Too Cool For Mottos
Notable Members: Black Dice, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture
Outstanding Characteristics: Cachet. This label has so much cachet that LCD Soundsystem had a cult following and cover story in the Wire before their album even came out. Plus they created a habitat in which Black Dice can work their feral electric death magick.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Black Dice - Beaches and Canyons
Proposed Payola Scheme: Let me get a band together and put a limited edition shitty 7" out in limited pressing so I can be eternally cool.
Proposed Motto: Weirdos for Jesus
Notable Members: Sufjan Stevens, Liz Janes
Outstanding Characteristics: A group of kooky escapees from the lock-in that temper their faith with some of the sweetest and most brilliant orchestral pop music going. Sufjan Stevens 50 states project is enough to put them on the map, but everything on there is good enough that it will almost make you want to join that Unitarian Church in hopes of finding people like this. Almost.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise
Proposed Payola Scheme: Let me play ukulele on a track when Sufjan gets to the Louisiana album.
Proposed Motto: Glorious Music for your Bright New Apocalypse
Notable Members: Devendra Banhart, Angels of Light, Akron/Family
Outstanding Characteristics: Exquisite production and dead on writing either penned or produced by Michael Gira, former leader of Swans. Anyone smart enough to unleash Devendra Banhart on the world based on a dodgy demo tape, enough to to release that demo as is as the first album that launched a neo weird folk revolution, deserves respect
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: tie between Devendra Banhart - Rejoice in the Hands and Angels of Light - How I Loved You
Proposed Payola Scheme: Cast some kind of spell and let me be Devendra Banhart for two hours.
Proposed Motto: Making Hyperactivity Hyper-productive
Notable Members: Fantomas, Tomahawk, Melvins
Outstanding Characteristics: All things Mike Patton. All the time, tuned up to 11 on bathtub crank in a pimped-out monkey cage. The sign of an Ipecac release is that the first five minutes have you cringing, but the next 60 have you in a trance.
Favorite Thing They've Put Out: This kick ass Ennio Morricone compilation I just got from them.
Proposed Payola Scheme: Install Mike Patton as an intern at my day job, and at just the right moment, I give him the high sign and he goes berserk, scaring the shit out of the suits.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com