Monday, July 14, 2008

My Sub Pop 20

My first exposure to indie labels was all things Sub Pop. Nirvana was a big stepping stone, but I had other connections to the little label that could. My mom and her brother grew up with the Ponemans. John Poneman later co-founded SP. The Seattle label's first non-northwestern US signing was Ohio's own Afghan Whigs. Hell, I even wore my Loser t-shirt whenever possible. This was my label.

Recently, Pitchfork, the purveyors of all that is hip and trendy in indie rock, started a series of their writers' favorite Sub Pop releases. Since I've been into lists lately, I thought it appropriate to make my own Sub Pop of the Sub Pop...uh...releases. Sorry. I'm still working out the title. Anyway, here they are, my Sub Pop 20 in no particular order:

Nirvana - Bleach
This was my first Sub Pop exclusive. It's raw and generally a mess, but it was the record you could always use to trump any one's Nirvana fandom.

The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
This has to be among the top five records on any label of the past ten years.

The Grifters - Ain't My Lookout
I actually own a vinyl copy of this one. The problem with that is that the CD was released on Sub Pop and the vinyl on Shangri-La Records. Either way, it's sleazy and Memphis all the way.

Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary
Although it's credited with birthing emo, the album hinted at the possibilities the silly genre now characterized by a haircut could attain.

Sebadoh - Harmacy
I don't know if this is the best Sebadoh album of the bunch, but it was the one I listened to over and over during a difficult break-up.

The Thermals - The Body, the Blood, the Machine
I still can't get enough of this record. It's as perfect a punk-pop record as I've ever heard...and it has substance.

Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank the Cradle
This record was so uncool when it was released. It wasn't freaky by any means to latch on to the freak folk scene. It was lo-fi when lo-fi was dying. It's just really, really good.

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

The last S-K album was the only one they released on Sub Pop. It was also their most raucus of their catalog.

Modest Mouse - "Never Ending Math Equation"/"Working on Leaving the Living" 7"
Sub Pop brought back the single. I'd be remissed if I didn't include at least one 7". Although the A-side has become a big live hit for the band to this day, the B-side reveals the pesimism that has always permeated through Isaac Brock's work.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
This really is the best record released so far this year. Read this excellent review.

Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth
Side projects often suck and only reveal that your favorite artist has terrible taste. This gave a taste of the weirdness inside Brock's warped mind...never to show itself again. Oh well, at least I saw him play this album once.

Velocity Girl - Simpatico
Velocity Girl were once a hardcore band, but they let Sarah Shannon's angelic voice take them to pop sensibilities not often heard on Sub Pop. It went overboard by the next album, but it was nearly perfect on Simpatico.

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

This EP is not as musically significant as it is culturally significant. Grunge was born here.

Fruit Bats - Mouthfuls
Smooth and poppy tunes meant to be sung around a campfire is how I'd describe this record.

No Age - Nouns
This band reminds me of grunge, lo-fi, activism, two-piece bands, and pretty much everything else I loved about the nineties.

Low - Drums & Guns
Imagine an album that was able to capture the intensity and minimalism of "In the Air Tonight" without all the silliness that is Phil Collins.

The Afghan Whigs - Congregation

I can't even find my copy of this album anymore. (I guess I need to round one up.) The image of the naked black woman cradling a white baby is all you need to know about the Afghan Whigs...that and they made some great music.

Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
After hearing the band's side projects and latest album, I realize this record might be an aberration. However, there is no denying the power of this Sub Pop release.

Zumpano - Goin' Through Changes
Long before AC Newman courted Matador employees and sang along side Neko Case and Dan Bejar, he was in a band called Zumpano and they recorded a perfect pop song called "The Sylvia Hotel."

Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Epic and down home at the same time, Band of Horses hit it out of the park with their debut.

There's no need to respond with your favorite 20, but you could leave a few of your favorite Sub Pop releases in the comments.


GE said...

So many great albums. I'd probably add a couple of the labels mellower offerings: Pernice Brothers - Overcome By Happiness
The Postal Service - Give Up

ModernApple said...

I completely agree with your Shins comment

ATR said...

Nice list. You should suggest this to them as a "get to know Sub Pop" bundle.

I have been working on my "album for every year I'm alive" list, but a) that's some number of years (I'm at least up to the 90s, now (the decade, of course, not the age)) and, b) I've been on a roll with this Italy story....

Speaking of rolls, how was the sushi? (I ask because, as you may suspect, I can only enjoy sushi vicariously here.)

comoprozac said...

GE-Those are good suggestions. I caught on the Pernice Bros. late, but I was into their way sadder, more stuff prior to Overcome.

Modernapple-Thanks for commenting. Yeah, the Shins changed my life. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

ATR-Maybe I will send it to the folks at SP. I look forward to your list, but I understand once you're on a roll you have to keep your momentum. The sushi was good. One of R's former students tends bar there and feeds us (meaning me) free booze.

Sarah said...

What a great list. I remember getting Sub Pop 200 when my mom took me to NYC many, many years ago, and it made me feel like the coolest kid on earth (or at least Kentucky.) I would have (on my list) added Comets on Fire and the Vaselines. It's really nice to see Velocity Girl (although I prefer Copacetic), Low, and, well, everything else on you listed. Perfect!