The top 5 most underrated independent labels right now

  /  03.30.2017

The major labels are starting to figure it out. In a mess of drooping record sales and mass subscription service use, major labels have begun to navigate the ever-confusing new world of music consumption. However, PLEASE do not forget about the littler guys, whose message is often more potent and powerful than anything a major label is willing to put their weight behind.

Carpark Records

Perhaps best known to the masses as home to the genre-bending wiz that is Chaz Bundick (aka Toro y Moi, Les Sins), Carpark is also home to genuine artists who tend to favor playing an instrument over using a preset in Pro Tools or Ableton. Ranging from stellar garage rock to slower more downtempo chillers to adventurous mixtures of traditional instruments with new electronic ones, Carpark covers a largely overlooked scene in modern music: rock music and its evolution to 2017’s standards.

Five acts to check out: Cloud Nothings, Speedy Ortiz, Beach House, Toro y Moi, Dan Deacon

Domino Recording Company

This is one of the more eclectic and unfairly underrecognized labels putting music out now. Artists range from prolific acts like Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, to long-lasting fan favorites like Hot Chip, Dan Deacon, and Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, to members of the groundbreaking newer class like Dirty Projectors. It clearly doesn’t matter to Domino Recording Company what you’re playing, as long as it’s amazing. This label has a particularly strong penchant for commissioning and creating excellent music videos as well.

Five acts to check out: Dirty Projectors, Four Tet, The Kills, Panda Bear, Caribou

Body High Records

Body High is one of the most criminally overlooked burgeoning labels in Los Angeles. The distinct watermark of signees DJDS (or, DJ Dodger Stadium) is printed all over Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo as the electronic duo was nominated for several Grammys and were given credit on multiple tracks from Pablo including “Father Stretch My Hands” and “Fade.” This is not to mention DJDS’s two stunning albums, embodying the loneliness and delights of Los Angeles with long heartstring-tugging builds and drone music videos of famous Los Angeles parks. Celebrity fans of the predominantly electronic music label include Rae Sremmurd, Mike WiLL Made-It, Kanye effin West and many more. They continue to add insightful and innovative artists who have a heavy focus on unique live performance and proving that DJs do not just “press play.”

Five acts to check out: DJ Dodger Stadium, Jim E-Stack, Newman Wolf, Myrryrs, Samo Soundboy

Warp Records

One of the most reputable and longest running independent labels of all time. Besides specializing in the more abstract forms of electronic music and multiple disruptive genres of rock, this label has consistently had the prescience to pick out artists in their formative years and enable shocking success and artistry. Flying Lotus has released all of his records since 2008 on Warp, from the gritty and adult swim bumper friendly Los Angeles, to the surreal masterpiece of Cosmogramma, to the delightfully morbid and extremely well realized You’re Dead! However, this is the same record label that releases Brian Eno’s (producer of Talking Heads, David Bowie, Coldplay, U2) decidedly non-pop friendly, cerebral and pensive soundscape records. Oh, and Warp’s signed Danny Brown, which means they got that INSANE Danny Brown video directed by Jonah Hill. Remember when Hudson Mohawke was a no-name until after TNGHT’s “Higher Ground” became an electronic music staple? Warp sure remembers; they put out of all his records, including TNGHT. If you want abstract and you want to make damn sure it’s good, Warp has it all covered.

Five acts to check out: Flying Lotus, Jamie Lidell, Aphex Twin, Grizzly Bear, Battles

Fool’s Gold

Fool’s Gold is very well known for an independent label, thanks to its charismatic and passionate leaders A-Trak and Nicky Catchdubs. One of the clearly more hands-on label managers and creators, both DJs have a self-awareness, humor, and childlike passion that is missing from an unbearably bleak musical landscape. The variety within what used to seem like an EDM label has progressed into much more musically challenging and ground breaking territory, adding acts like hip hop producer Cardo, the heartbreaker electronic/R&B producer Ta-Ku, underground hip hop legends The Cool Kids, and talk box champions Chromeo. Fool’s Gold throws parties, festivals, and compelling live shows that all manage to spread A-Trak’s crate digging, joke cracking, happily indulgent vibes to the acts on his label as well as his audience.

Five acts to check out: Rome Fortune, Duck Sauce, Leaf, Ta-Ku, Bag Raiders



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