Top Ten Labels of 2016

Last week, I posted my top ten songs by local musicians. And in that spirit, I’m continuing the top ten countdowns with a list of my favorite labels of 2016. Labels are sort of a short hand to finding the perfect record. I became aware of this when I pulled out the records I had purchased over the past few years and saw how many were on the same label. While finding a great record has a jouissance unlike anything else, finding a label that consistently puts out great records is a long lasting pleasure.

10. Awful Records — This record label is relatively new, turning five this year. That said, the darkwave / hiphop that comes out of it is powerful and refreshing. From Abra to Tommy Genesis, Father to Lord Narf, these musicians are quickly making waves in the scene.

9. Bella Union — Delightfully experimental, Bella Union has brought some great titles to the world (Clarence Clarity’s No Now, being among the forefront). 2016 was no different. Wild Nothing, Xiu Xiu, Explosions in The Sky, Marissa Nadler all put out records on this label. If you like your music large and a bit weird, look no further than Bella Union.

8. Saddle Creek — Who doesn’t love Saddle Creek? The Omaha label shaped the early aughts with sad indie folk and electro-punk. 2016 proves the label isn’t done yet. Putting out Sam Evian’s debut, Premium, a retrospective of The Faint, Big Thief’s Masterpiece, and last year’s Hop Along album, Saddle Creek is more diverse than it has ever been.

7. Southern Lord – Southern Lord continually impresses me with their riff-forward releases. From thrash to doom, stoner metal to black metal, from hardcore to metalcore, this record label is putting out some of my favorite heavy albums and reissues.

6. High Dive Records – Kansas City’s musical landscape would be bland without this label. Everything they put out in the past 52 weeks is on fire. The Conquerors, Psychic Heat, Fullbloods, Rooftop Vigilantes, Organized Crimes–the list goes on. High Dive Records is positively a driving force in the city.

5. Mondo — This record label is the label for soundtracks. Each release is pressed with care and comes housed in beautiful packaging–leave it to a label that specializes in scores to pay attention to the visual aspect of the LP. Mondo has every soundtrack you can want: Naked Lunch, Gremlins, Twin Peaks, Monster Squad, Suspiria, Back to The Future, Home Alone, and so many more.

4. Daptone — Having brought the late, great Miss Sharon Jones to acclaim, Daptone is one of those labels that is comfortable flying under the radar. With a lineup that boasts Charles Bradley, The Budos Band, The Frightnrs, The Olympians, and many more, this record label is tearing up the soul game.

3. Relapse Records — Like Southern Lord, Relapse is heavy. Putting out several of my all time favorite albums, Relapse jumps through the many metal hoops of heaviness. From Ulcerate’s power metal barrages to Brain Tentacles certified weirdness, from Red Fang’s riffage to Black Anvil’s grinding percussion, Relapse refuses to put out a bad album. Period.

2. Colemine  Records — This label is reinventing 45s. Limited runs on colored vinyl, buzzy psychedelic soul and rock bangers, anything pressed by this small label is certain to please. From their instrumental releases of 2016 (Ikebe Shakedown, The Gripsweats, The Surefire Soul Orchestra) to their records with vocals (AJ & The Jiggawatts, Jazz Dispensary: Holidays, Orgone, etc), Colemine Records releases nothing but fire.

1. LateNightTales — This label and its imprints give me hope for the future. In 2016, this collective released Sasha’s Scene Delete, Khruangbin’s The Universe Smiles Upon You, David Holmes’ Late Night Tales, and so many others. These records have spun more revolutions on my turntables than some of my oldest titles. If you’re a fan of moody electronic records, then this is the label for you.

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