My Favourite Indie Labels

Alexander Groes 27 November 2016

We love money. Money is great. Money makes the world go round. It can get us anywhere and give us anything. Using money alone, you can get the rights to the music of any promising new band of your choosing, mould them into the next big thing, and sell their output for more money. Then you can use that money to repeat the process, with any different promising new band of your choosing.

Occasionally, though, people care less for the money and more for these promising new bands. Perhaps these bands are made up of their friends, or perhaps it is just that a lot of these bands are really good. In any case, these people are good people, and these bands are good bands. Sometimes, it is not all about the money. So below is a list of my top four indie record labels in the UK (in no particular order):

Tasty Morsels – Loughborough 

Tasty Morsels is the ultimate in independent labels. Their Facebook page ‘about’ section immodestly and accurately reads, “library of peng”. That is precisely what it is. Their website is simply a collection of twenty different releases from over the last few years, all downloadable for free, and released by a increasingly wide-spanning group of friends. Their music is predominantly lo-fi off-kilter electronic pop, often inspired by the chorus-laden sounds of Connan Moccasin. This is perhaps no surprise, given that Infinite Bisous (the ringleader at Tasty Morsels) spends large chunks of his time touring the world as Connan’s bassist. Listen to their compilations and Laurie Holiday’s ‘Dusted’ (a quirky take on instrumental hip-hop, with some expertly chosen documentary samples) for some of the best music you’ll never need to pay for.

Art is Hard – ‘South of England’ 

Unlike Tasty Morsels, Art is Hard specialise in physical releases. They’ve been around for six years and have put out plenty of material in the process. They released Black Tambourines’ debut album, a perfectly low-budget garage rock masterpiece, and Penelope Isles’ latest release for Cassette Story Day proves that reverb-drenched dream-pop is not quite dead yet – listen to ‘Why We’re Always Talking’ for one of the most gripping and beautiful tracks of the year. As the name suggests, the art is just as important for the music for Art is Hard. As a result, their records often come as coloured or patterned vinyl, with a few even printed on square Perspex. And they’ve got great, cheap t-shirts.  Definitely worth a look.

Sways – Manchester

Sways could well be my favourite label. The music they’ve released is of astonishingly high quality. They released MONEY’s first single, the visceral ‘Who’s Going to Love You Now’, and Bernard + Edith’s debut LP. Most recent signing, Blacklung, self-labelled ‘kraut-disco’, typify Manchester’s industrial sound, with harsh distortion to rival My Bloody Valentine, but with a driving, almost danceable rhythm section. It’s brilliant. But it was meant to be released about a year ago, and hasn’t been yet. Sways, whilst probably the best label on the list in terms of quality of music, are undoubtedly the most unorganised. Twice now I’ve ordered records from them and never received them. The same happened to a friend of mine, and he wasn’t even refunded. It’s a shame, but it’s pretty rock n’ roll, I suppose.

Warm Laundry – Cambridge x Manchester x Milton Keynes x London x Oxford 

Warm Laundry spans across the country, and like Tasty Morsels currently only has free online releases. Some of the musicians and artists (Warm Laundry also puts a lot of onus on their art releases) hail from here in Cambridge. De Bondy, for example, offers an exciting take on dance-inspired melancholia, with her delicate, ethereal voice floating above the thick bass on ‘Lesson’. I spoke to Joe Taylor, based in Manchester and the brains behind the Warm Laundry operation, who told me, “Warm Laundry was created as a platform for which we could release our friends' music in a slightly more ‘official’ way. I mean for those that observe the way we do things, there's nothing official about it, it's mostly chaos, but we get by and have met some good people doing so”.Warm Laundry is friends doing things for friends. They encourage people to make art and music who otherwise wouldn’t have a platform. And first and foremost, they have released some great songs.