Together Again, Naturally: Sleater-Kinney

Sleater Kinney, photo by Brigitte SirePhoto by Brigitte Sire

“We felt this sense that if we don’t make a really good record, it would be really hard to justify being a band again.”

This year’s most exciting rock-n-roll reunion—yes, it’s only January, but I’m calling it now—is also, miraculously, something that was kept a secret until only a few months ago. Indie-rock legends and riot grrrl icons Sleater-Kinney have just released a new album, No Cities to Love, the first record from the band in a decade. They’ll also embark on a massive tour, the first since announcing an “indefinite hiatus” in 2006.

The announcement of a new Sleater-Kinney record—with Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein trading guitar licks and vocals, and drummer Janet Weiss providing the thundering backbeat— was met with extremely positive interest. So it’s understandable that the band would want to create without the added pressure of scrutiny. “We just wanted to take that space for ourselves and we weren’t ready to share that until we were super pleased with it,” Tucker explains. “We felt this sense that if we don’t make a really good record, it would be really hard to justify being a band again.”

Of all the bands that came out of riot grrrl’s early-’90s heyday, Sleater-Kinney is certainly one of the most beloved. Brownstein and Tucker both played in grrrl groups—Excuse 17 and Heavens to Betsy—before forming Sleater-Kinney in 1994. The band’s self-titled 1995 debut followed the mold of peers like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill with raw, angry lyrics that railed against oppression (from “A Real Man”: All girls should have / A real man / Should I buy it? / I don’t wanna). Tucker’s voice had the power to induce goose bumps even then, and Sleater-Kinney glimmered with the prospect of greatness to come.

A string of critically acclaimed albums followed—Call the Doctor, Dig Me Out (the first with Weiss on drums), The Hot Rock, All Hands On the Bad One, and One Beat—each one, in some way, an evolution from what came before. All Hands, released in 2001, featured the band’s most pop-friendly song, “You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun.” One Beat, out in 2002, wore anxiety and anger about the post-9/11 America on its sleeve. The Woods, which was released to near-universal acclaim in 2005, was the band’s least “punk” record, with some downright jammy tunes (including the 11-minute opus “Let’s Call It Love”). But even as their sound matured, the essence of Sleater-Kinney—the energy and interplay between the three women—was always there.

Following their 2006 split, each member pursued her own projects: Weiss played in Stephen Malkmus’s band, the Jicks, while still drumming for Quasi, the band she formed with ex-husband Sam Coomes in the ’90s. Tucker spent a few years raising her son (with director Lance Bangs) before bringing her massive voice to the Corin Tucker Band, and releasing albums in 2010 and 2012. And after a brief stint working for an ad agency, Brownstein immersed herself in the world of comedy: She and Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen created Portlandia, the satirical IFC series that lovingly skewers her Pacific Northwest hometown.

As the careers of the trio went in separate directions, they remained connected in other ways, giving fans the hope that a reunion might happen some day. Tucker made a cameo appearance in Portlandia’s first season, and Weiss has worked behind the scenes on the show as a location scout. The three members joined Pearl Jam on stage in 2013 to perform Neil Young’s chestnut “Rockin’ In the Free World.” And, most tantalizingly, Weiss and Brownstein formed the band Wild Flag in 2010 (along with guitar goddess Mary Timony and keyboardist Rebecca Cole), releasing one near-perfect album in 2011 before disbanding.

Sleater Kinney, photo by Brigitte SirePhoto by Brigitte Sire

It was around that time that the three women began to consider the idea of reuniting. “Carrie and I were actually just hanging out,” says Tucker of the initial discussions. “We were talking about performing and playing music, and I said, ‘Yeah, I wonder if we’re going to do Sleater-Kinney stuff again.’ We hadn’t really talked about it in a long time, so the conversation went from there.” Once Weiss was on board, in early 2012, the trio began working on material that would eventually become No Cities to Love.

The band brought longtime producer John Goodmanson back into the fold (he previously worked on Dig Me Out, All Hands on the Bad One, and One Beat), recording No Cities in bits and pieces—a track in Portland, another while in San Francisco—over the course of the past two years. “We would make time when we could,” says Tucker. “That would be like, an evening in my living room or in my basement, or in Carrie’s basement. We just found opportunities to keep working on it, which is sort of how we’ve always written.”

The first inkling that something was up came in October, when Sub-Pop Records released Start Together, a massive box set containing re-mastered versions of the band’s albums. A 7” for “Bury Our Friends,” the first single off No Cities, was slipped into the vinyl versions, marked with the date 1/20/15; the news of a full-blown album and tour quickly followed. “After being away for so long we wondered, ‘oh, is anyone going to care?’” says Tucker. “We hoped that people would be excited, but we didn’t know.”

Sleater Kinney

They didn’t need to worry—and fans don’t, either. No Cities is a fine return to form; it’s compact and charges hard, but its 33 minutes are packed with excellent track after excellent track. It also feels like an undeniably personal record: the album opener, “Price Tag,” details post-recession anxiety and the decline of the middle class, a point of view informed by Tucker’s experiences as a mom. On “Hey Darling,” Brownstein alludes to her own anxiety issues, which came to a head after The Woods was released. (“Sometimes the heat of the crowd / Feels a little too close / Sometimes the shout of the room / Makes me feel so alone.”) Listening to No Cities you wouldn’t know that Brownstein, Tucker, and Weiss took a near-decade-long hiatus from the band; it’s as fresh and vital as anything out there.

Now that No Cities is finished, the band is gearing up for a months-long tour that will take them across the United States, to Europe and Canada, and back to the U.S. again. But as far as the future of the band, Tucker is—unsurprisingly—playing things close to the vest. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” she says. “I kind of feel like living in the moment.”

Amy Plitt is a writer and editor who has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Rolling Stone, the A.V. Club, and Time Out New York, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

Vienna: It’s Not Just for Mozart Anymore

Laurent Fintoni is a DJ, label owner, writer for FACT magazine, and frequent consumer of Viennese whirls.

Ritornell

A tram loops around Vienna’s historic city center. It’s late at night and instead of the usual tourists, the tram is filled with young people talking, drinking and trying to catch a glimpse of local act Ritornell, who are performing at one end of the car using keyboards, self-made instruments and laptops. The vibe is relaxed and fun; it’s a party in a train, because… why not?

I was in town to attend the 2013 Waves festival, a yearly showcase of alternative and independent music that takes over the city center for a few days, sending revelers across streets and parks to find acts in traditional and makeshift venues from trams to opera houses to nightclubs. Supported by the city, Waves is a great example of the health and diversity of Vienna’s music scene.

Perhaps best known for architecture and classical music, Vienna is a pretty city that’s full of contradictions: small but large enough, quiet but full of life, rich but cheap to live in. The city has enjoyed a new music boom in recent years. This follows a couple of decades or so after the downbeat eccentrics Kruder & Dorfmeister put it on the international map.

During my time there, I met up with a handful of the city’s new breed of artists and they showed me around the clubs, the neighborhoods, and the food spots. Many of these DJs, producers and musicians have grown up in town or moved there from around the country, drawn by the capital’s rich history and increasingly vibrant scene. Slowly, but surely, they’ve brought a new energy to Vienna that makes the city feel more exciting than the usual European hotspots of Paris, London or Berlin.

Ulrich Troyer, photo by Eva KeletyUlrich Troyer, photo by Eva Kelety

Longtime resident and experimental musician Ulrich Troyer believes, “Vienna still has the image of Mozart and old cultural heritage, but there is a modern, vibrant and creative cooking pot under its historical lid.” My time at the Waves festival backed this up, and since then I’ve continued to keep an eye on the scene.

What follows is a short roundup of Viennese music—from hip-hop to acoustic poetry, dance music to film scores, dub to experimental electronics—and the labels and artists responsible for making the city a diverse and creative hub.

Trishes

Trishes, photo by Jeff Mangionephoto by Jeff Mangione

Every city has an icon like Trishes: a quiet person whose dedication to music and his hometown is far more important than his need for recognition. Active on the Viennese scene since the late 1990s, Trishes is a producer and DJ of hip-hop and electronic music. His first forays were as part of local rap act Kaputtnicks. When the group disbanded, he set up the Beattown Records label with Whizz Vienna to release their instrumental productions before signing to Cologne’s MPM label. In 2012, he collaborated with Chicago’s 1773 on a full-length, The Luv Bug, released via another local label, Duzz Down San.

Trishes’ real value to the city is as a connector and as presenter of the hip-hop show “Tribe Vibe” on national station Radio FM4. He’s held that gig since 2000 and says, “I just like making music, playing it out and spreading the word about good stuff, even more so when it’s from Vienna or Austria.” He’s being recognized this year with an invitation to co-curate Popfest—a free, four-day, open-air festival in July.

Born and raised in Vienna, Trishes spent some time away in his youth but ultimately came back to where his heart was. “I’m sure having a good job at the radio helped my decision,” he explains, “but in general, Vienna is a great place to live: beautiful old streets and houses, not too expensive, and pretty chill with more than enough cultural things happening.”

Sterotyp / Crunchtime Records

Stereotyp

Stefan Moerth’s work, under the name Stereotyp, owes a lot to both Jamaican sound system culture and hip-hop, finding the sweet spot between sub-bass pressure and rhythmical hypnosis.

Moerth’s career stretches back to the late 1990s, with his first releases appearing via G-Stone Recordings, the label of Austrian downbeat legends Kruder & Dorfmeister. “I witnessed the whole industry collapse in the 2000s,” he recalls. “Labels became rougher, policies more complicated. Physical moved to digital. So I decided to do it myself and set up Crunchtime Recordings. The most interesting thing for me has been the control. I design the covers, make the music, and have no one to report to.” He goes on to say, “My second passion is painting, so I love bugging out on covers. Recently, I’ve started to push through other artists like Dizzy Bell and Muadiep.”

Having spent his formative years in Vienna, Moerth moved to New York City at age 19. “About eight years later,” he says, “I refreshed my relationship with Vienna and moved back. Here, time seems to move differently. It’s an excellent place to work creatively, but you must have a vast pool of inspiration to draw from. So travel the world, do crazy shit, and come back here and create. I just moved to a forest near the border of the city and I’m amazed by what it has to offer.”

Luv Shack Records

Luv Shack Records

Nearly two decades since Kruder & Dorfmeister cemented Vienna as the home of downbeat, a new generation of Viennese kids are starting to take back the city’s musical identity. One such collective is Luv Shack Records, set up in 2012 by five friends based in and around the city.

“It was nothing more than an outlet for our own music at first,” explains Simon, one of the founders. “Now we’re looking to diversify our repertoire and expand.” Having capitalized on their youthful enthusiasm to get started, they’ve come to realize the realities of balancing creativity with commercial imperatives. According to Simon, “We can never release as much as we’d like because of the need to invest time and money, especially when doing vinyl.” They’re hopeful that this year will see them grow, including a first label compilation due in the spring.

Luv Shack recently began collaborating with two other local labels, Schönbrunner Perler and Jhruza Records, with the hope of finding strength in numbers. “We have all known each other for years,” says Simon, “so working all together felt very normal. The thing we’ve always loved about Vienna is that there’s a great diversity of clubs (big and small) and bars—something for every mood and taste.”

Editions Mego

Editions Mego has its roots in Vienna’s techno scene. Originally founded in 1995 as Mego, the label was run by Ramon Bauer, Andreas Pieper, Peter Meininger and Peter Rehberg. In its first decade, Mego was home to artists who were not afraid to take risks, including Jim O’Rourke, Fennesz, Kevin Drumm, Mark Fell, and Merzbow. In 1999, it was awarded a distinction at Ars Electronica, with O’Rourke defining the label’s work as “a brand new punk computer music.”

In 2006, the label was rebooted as Editions Mego and helmed by Rehberg. A British expat who says he was “looking for something different” when he moved to Vienna in 1987, Rehberg has kept the label’s experimental ethos alive, challenging listeners to expand their horizons. While its base is in Vienna, Editions Mego is perhaps the most international label in town, with the majority of its artists based elsewhere. One notable exception is Christian Fennesz, who lives and works in the city.

Since the reboot, Rehberg has continued to expand Editions Mego. In 2011, he set up two sub-labels, run by Stephen O’Malley and John Elliott. In 2012, Recollection GRM was born with Francois Bonnet and Christian Zanresi from Paris. “The focus here,” Rehberg explains, “is vinyl reissues of legendary electronic works from the GRM archives from the 1950s to the 1980s. These will shortly be making an appearance on Bandcamp.” In 2015, Editions Mego celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Duzz Down San

Duzz Down San

Duzz Down San was founded in 2007 by Martin Unterlechner, who makes music as mosch. Over the years, Duzz Down San has been home for various upcoming artists and a growing body of international names, including Yarah Bravo. “Our main goal from the very beginning,” Unterlechner says, “was to do our best to build up artists in a sustainable manner. You can see our roster as a kind of support group of people who did not want to wait any longer for something to happen. So we built this family-like foundation to support each other.”

Beyond giving space to the city’s talents, Duzz Down San collaborates with like-minded collectives and labels, such as Beatmaker Sessions, and Honighdachs, Unterlechner’s favorite Austrian hip-hop label. He says, “People from Celeste and Wolkenvorhang have grown into our family over time as well, becoming crucial supporters of what we try to stand for.”

Originally from Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol, Unterlechner moved to Vienna after a spell in Berlin. “I love an urban feel that still has a human touch,” he explains. “That’s why I love Vienna. Musically, it is insane at the moment. So many super-talented people are doing things here and developing a healthy self-confidence. I would recommend that anyone visiting check out our resident club Celeste. It’s a small family of about ten people working to give Vienna a different party experience. Also Rhiz, MÖE and Fluc are all venues with a surprisingly interesting program.”

Etymtone

Etymtone

The Etymtone label was founded in 2012 by Juergen Berlakovich as a means to release his own music, which was part of a wide body of cross-disciplinary works. With a background in literature and philosophy, and a position teaching acoustic poetry at the Vienna Poetry School, Berlakovich is a quirky musician in a city full of quirky musicians. He is a member of Vienna’s Vegetable Orchestra, a group whose instruments are made of fresh vegetables.

“Through my interest in literature, music and sound I’ve developed my own kind of acoustic poetics,” he explains. “I use spoken language, granulated and atomized to its micro-structural elements and electronically processed in combination with guitars, bass and electronics to create speech/sound textures in compositions and improvisations.”

Another Vegetable Orchestra member is Ulrich Troyer, with whom Berlakovich also collaborates on music and the business of music. “All of the collaborations are really good and respectful,” Berlakovich says. “We are all interested in working on the release and distribution of good musical products without business competition whatsoever. Vienna has a lively and interesting music scene, especially for experimental and abstract electronic and improvised music. The city has definitely influenced me a lot.”

Kompact

Kompact

A transplant from the Upper Austrian region, Matthias Kassmannhuber (aka Kompact) fell into music via his father’s jazz collection and the discovery of Wu Tang’s debut album, Enter The 36 Chambers. Soon after that, he began making beats for a local hip-hop group at school, and from there he continued to learn how to, as he puts it, “contribute and share something that was my own.”

Over the years, Kassmannhuber combined his love for hip-hop, knowledge as a drummer, and penchant for 8-bit to craft funky productions with a reverence for the classics. His first few releases were put out on the Rotaug label, a collective from his hometown. Next came the Duzz Down San label, which he says was “my second home in terms of creativity” and the label that released his latest album. With a sound ripe for vocalists, Kassmannhuber has collaborated with local MCs Thaiman and Mirac. He’s also worked with Bristol’s Rider Shafique and they’re planning an album for 2015. He’s crossed genres with other members of his collectives, as well. “The rather small size of Vienna makes spontaneous collaborations happen quite frequently,” he explains. “It’s a big plus, in my opinion.”

Moving to Vienna was a logical step for Kassmannhuber, considering his friends’ move and a choice to study at university there. That was 12 years ago and he hasn’t looked back. “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else,” he says. “It has the perfect balance between community and anonymity. Music-wise, Vienna has a rich history and a lively present that once in a while brings out amazing talents who become known well beyond the city limits. The club scene is also healthy, even if bureaucracy and a general sensibility for noise can make it a bit more difficult compared to cities of a similar size.”

Affine Records

Affine Records, Okmalumkoolkat, photo by Justin McGeeOkmalumkoolkat, photo by Justin McGee

The Affine Records label boasts one of the most prestigious rosters of the many young collectives that have cropped up in Vienna in the past decade. Purveyors of “headphone music for the dance floor,” Affine started in 2008 with the trio of Dorian Concept, The Clonious and Cid Rim, who performed as a band under the name JSBL. Later additions included house duo Ogris Debris, Zanshin and Sixtus Preiss, and most recently, young upstart Wandl and South African rapper Okmalumkoolkat.

Label operator Jamal explains that what started as a group of friends “channeling our own musical tastes for self-determined actions” has become a small, well-oiled machine that’s made an impact around the world. While many of Affine’s better-known names have gone on to work with other labels and artists—even landing music in Apple ads—the label remains a base to which they all happily return and contribute. “In the last four or five years, the vibe in Vienna has become really supportive,” Jamal says. “We’ve worked with people here from day one. We’re connected with Jazzwerkstatt Wien, Trishes, DJ Buzz, and the Loud Minority, to name a few.”

“Vienna has a lot of green areas,” Jamal continues. “It’s an ideal size, too. The city exploded in recent years and musically it offers nearly everything. You can choose between several quality parties on the weekend, be it house, beats and breaks, weird electronica, jazz concerts and a growing indie rock scene.”

Ritornell

Ritornell

Production duo Ritornell was founded by Richard Eigner and Roman Gerold in Salzburg, where the pair were studying. Their first work was a score for a dance piece by Laura Kappel. Ritornell grew into an experimental, shape-shifting entity. “We started to specialize in live performances,” Eigner explains. “We try to heavily involve room acoustics, utilizing multichannel sound systems and strange, self-built instruments.”

Eigner credits Vienna’s “village feel” for fostering collaborations, regardless of musical inclination. “Our first releases were recorded at Patrick Pulsinger’s studio,” Eigner says. “Over the years, we’ve had a great deal of guest musicians play on our records, and in 2012 we collaborated with Sam IRL on a song for Kutmah’s compilation on Brownswood Recordings.” Eigner has also contributed drums and percussion for Dorian Concept, Mieux and Patrick Pulsinger.

Eigner points to the city’s rich musical tradition as reason enough for anyone to come and visit. “It has a lot of diversity,” he says. “I recommend checking out Konzerthaus and Musikverein for their amazing acoustics. What also attracts us to stay are the great recording rooms, our favorite being the Radiokulturhaus Studio 2, which is owned by ORF, the national TV and radio station. The sound in there is just jaw-dropping.”

Mieux

Mieux

Mieux is the duo comprised of Minor Sick and Feux. Originally intended as a portmanteau of their names, they say it was also a “promise to ourselves of being better, which is the meaning of the word in French, and being more accessible—caring about the small things and letting go of ourselves or other pseudonyms.”

Further strengthening Vienna’s ties with Cologne, Mieux’s first official release was 2013’s Neufant on the Up My Alley label. As a Vienna native, Minor Sick has been active within the city’s scene and has appeared on the Duzz Down San label. The pair have collaborated with Ritornell and recently appeared on the first Boiler Room Vienna broadcast, a celebration of Dorian Concept’s first album for Ninja Tune that also included a set from Affine Records’ Cid Rim and The Clonious.

As a local born and raised in Vienna, Minor Sick remains skeptical of what the city can really offer in terms of artistic opportunities. “I’m not a risk taker and a little afraid of a lot of stuff, so I stay and I’m comfortable,” he says. “But I think most people who leave manage to do better on many levels.” For Feux, the move to Vienna was both practical and personal. He explains, “It helped our workflow to be in the same city, and I find Vienna to be calm and slow. From the Opera House to Pratersauna, pretty much everyone can find their own scene here. Lots of small clubs and more promoters over the past few years have brought a big diversity to Vienna’s night life.”

Ulrich Troyer

Ulrich Troyer, photo by Eva Keletyphoto by Eva Kelety

Troyer debuted in 2000 on the Mego label with NOK, an 18-minute, electro-acoustic suite that earned him an honorary mention at the 2000 Ars Electronica. Throughout the past decade he continued to explore the sweet spot between techno, dub and experimental. In the early 2010s he released Songs For William via Mala’s Deep Medi Musik label. It’s the tale of his guitar pedal, William, recounted in dub and through a hand-drawn comic.

Originally from Innsbruck, Troyer relocated to Vienna in 1992. “Art, architecture, and music were the image that I had in mind before I came to Vienna,” he says. “And this image proved to be true.” Alongside his work with Mego, Troyer has also been involved in the Vegetable Orchestra since 2005. “Vienna is my favorite city in the world. It is a steadily growing metropole which will never lose its ‘Gemütlichkeit.’”

Upon first arriving in town, Troyer discovered a trove of electronic music. He recalls, “The Dub Club, Mego, Radian, Fennesz—I was blown away! Instead of becoming an architect, I decided to build bass lines and musical spaces using echo chambers.” He points to the late 1990s hype as a first boom for the city, followed by a period of calm that has since been shaken up by new diversity. “Quite often I’ll stumble into a concert and get surprised. Great bands like Bulbul, Ritornell or Broken.Heart.Collector perform regularly and interesting stuff comes from labels like Affine Records. I also really like the monthly Accordia Schallplatten-Club at the Rhiz.”

Giallo Disco Records

Giallo Disco Records

Giallo Disco Records specialize in a blend of cinematic music inspired by Italo disco, krautrock, EBM and classic horror film scores from the 1970s and 1980s. The label was founded in 2012 by Greek expat Gianni Vercetti and his partner Anton. Since moving to Vienna from Syros Island in 2011, Vercetti has slowly been integrating himself into the local scene. He has a forthcoming remix for local techno hero Ken Hayakawa, has become a regular at the Disco Fresco / Zellophan parties, and has been invited to open for Goblin in the spring. This year the label will release its first album, Vercetti’s imaginary soundtrack to the 1972 Munich Massacre, partly inspired by Kevin MacDonald’s documentary.

“I came to Vienna,” Vercetti says, “because my girlfriend is from here. Despite its size, the city is very active and there’s a great variety of parties and venues. And people still dance here, too! I would also recommend people check out the record stores in town. There are a few good ones around the center and with some patience, you can dig out gems.”

Hector Macello

Founded in 2013, the Hector Macello label is relatively new to Vienna. The brainchild of Mainloop and Fid Mella, Hector Macello is a way for the producers to consolidate their work in one place and gain control. The core of the label is composed of the two founders alongside Clefco, Max Fisher, Lippp and Brenk Sinatra, one of Vienna’s most popular producers. “We’re still learning,” Mainloop and Fid Mella admit, “so every release is a hustle. Our third release, Chop Shop 2, really helped establish our name.” On Chop Shop 2, Brenk and Fid Mella dug through the annals of Viennese music for a themed beat tape dedicated to the city’s mean streets of the 1970s and 1980s.

All members, aside from Brenk, come from Merano in south Tyrol, an Italian town near the Austrian border. The allure of a big city and proximity to their hometown drew them here. They’ve since all fallen in love with the Viennese way of life. Mainloop and Fid Mella say, “Everybody knows each other and that makes it a great place to work, to share ideas and music. Especially from a producer point of view, Vienna has always been a melting pot of talented people. Everybody can profit from that situation and that’s why there is good music coming out of this place constantly.”

This year, Hector Macello is expanding with projects featuring international singers and what they say is a “mysterious band called Mighty Maiali.” The label also plans solo and collaborative releases from its core members. “We will continue to work how we want,” proclaim Mainloop and Fid Mella, “which is why we founded the label in the first place.”

What’s Up, 2015?

What's up 2015

Need new music in your life? Just about had enough of 2014 best-of lists? We checked in with an eclectic handful of labels to see what they’ve got cooking for 2015.

Ninja Tune and Relapse, two independent big guns at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, are celebrating 25th anniversaries in 2015. London-based Ninja Tune just polished off a grand year with a new EP from Bonobo, who wrapped up his North Borders tour by performing to 10,000 people at London’s Alexandra Palace. The label also popped out amazing new records from the likes of The Bug, Kelis, Dorian Concept, Martyn, Illum Sphere, Machinedrum, FaltyDL, and Mr. Scruff. Longtime Ninja fans continue to hold their collective breath for a new release from label founders Cold Cut, but in the meantime, new albums from Spacek and Romare are already up for preorder.

In 2014, Relapse covered all bases, releasing albums by old-school death metal legends Obituary and brand new artists Myrkur and Nothing. Already up for preorder are new albums from Call Of The Void, Lord Dying, and Torche’s Relapse debut, Restarter. For Relapse’s 25th anniversary, they’re mining the vaults and reissuing a ton of records from the back catalog (lots that have never been on vinyl before), and prepping new records from new signings, like Valkyrie, Ecstatic Vision, and Goblin Rebirth.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year comes from original riot grrls Sleater-Kinney. Their No Cities to Love drops January 20th on Sub Pop, and vocalist/guitarist Corin Tucker describes the trio’s sound as “going for the jugular.”

After a year in which Sub Pop released albums from Shabazz Palaces, Avi Buffalo, and Death Vessel, the Seattle-based label is keeping up its eclectic output with a new release on the horizon from cosmic R&B duo THEESatisfaction.

The busy folks at Rope-A-Dope released a staggering 45 records in 2014. And if that wasn’t enough, at the 56th GRAMMY Awards, Lalah Hathaway and Snarky Puppy won Best R&B Performance for “Something,” which featured on the Rope-A-Dope-released Snarky Puppy album Family Dinner, Volume One. Rope-A-Dope is promising Family Dinner, Volume Two in 2015, along with records from Shayna Steele, Walking Distance, and Fresh Cut Orchestra (all up for preorder), and Greg Hester’s James Brown tribute album, which features most of the players from Mr. Brown’s last band.

In 2014, Mello Music Group added Open Mike Eagle to their roster and the crafty MC’s Dark Comedy album wound up on many best-of lists, including those put together by Rolling Stone, SPIN, and LA Weekly. The label also released a steady stream of stellar hip-hop albums from Apollo Brown & Ras Kass, Black Opera, the 1978ers, and Apollo Brown. For early 2015, Mello Music have the Ken Starr album Square One dropping January 27th. As one of the first albums the label signed, this record is about six years in the making and features production by Kev Brown and Black Milk. Also in the works is The Good Fight, Oddisee’s first official solo album since People Hear What They See. L’Orange and Apollo Brown are also working on new tunes.

From a tiny record store in Tokyo, Japan, Dub Store Records unleashed a torrent of amazing dub and reggae reissues and rarities on Bandcamp in 2014. Thankfully, there is no end in site to their giant, Jamaican-flavored road block, with music from the Jammys and Ronnie Nasralla catalogs, and an ultra-rare Tommy McCook album also on the horizon.

Ghostly records, stalwart arbiters of good design and sounds, plan to follow up the year that saw releases from HTRK, Tycho, Tobacco, Xeno And Oaklander, Willits, Lusine, Lord Raja, and Beacon with new music from Michna, plus the long-awaited Fort Romeau LP.

Illinois-based Polyvinyl Record’s 2014 featured a reissue from American Football, which led to the band reuniting to play live. The label already has new records from Sonny & The Sunsets (Talent Night at the Ashram) and Montreal (Aureate Gloom) lined up for your preordering pleasure.

Los Angeles label Innovative Leisure set the bar high in 2014 with an eclectic set of top-notch releases from Nick Waterhouse, Allah-Las, Tijuana Panthers, Bass Drum of Death, De Lux, Jim-E Stack, BADBADNOTGOOD, D Tiberio and Khun Narin. They plan to keep up the pressure with new music from Hanni El Khatib and Nosaj Thing; sophomore albums from Classixx, De Lux, and Superhumanoids; and label debuts from Tropics and Gossamer.

Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, Styles Upon Styles are readying the debut SUS album from Quincy Vidal, plus new music from Zac Nelson and Brendon Moeller. From the same family of labels, the Beats In Space folks have new goodies in the pipeline by Palmbomen II and Tornado Wallace, while Software will present the official release of Suicidyear’s Japan mixtape and debut an EP from Napolian’s cohorts, Tairiq & Garifield.

Based in Leeds in the north of England, Leaf records are celebrating 20 years of quality tunes in 2015. In the last 12 months they got to see Melt Yourself Down get crazy at Glastonbury, and release music from Mercury Prize nominees Polar Bear and Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Already up for preorder is the new album from Leeds-based group Vessels, and watch out for more musical madness from Polar Bear, Melt Yourself Down, Jherek Bischoff and Matthew Bourne. Vinyl reissues from the label’s deep back catalog are also in the works.

The always-intriguing Northern Spy label has recently signed Shilpa Ray and made plans to release her full-length Last Year’s Savage in the first half of 2015. You might have seen her touring with Grinderman or singing backup with Nick Cave. If you missed what they were up to in 2014, they just posted a 44-minute, name-your-price mix. The label has also recently posted forthcoming records from Zs, and the guitar- and drum-heavy release from Thurston Moore and John Moloney.

Future Classic smashed it in 2014, taking home five ARIAs for Chet Faker’s Built on Glass album, and presenting great records from the likes of Seekae, George Maple, etc. A recently posted compilation provides a good sampler of what they’re all about. And keep your eyes peeled for upcoming releases by Ta-ku, KOA, and Basenji.

New Amsterdam’s Roomful of Teeth won a GRAMMY in 2014, and the label released the debut recordings of large-scale chamber works from composers Tristan Perich, Olga Bell, and David T. Little, as well as debut albums from Battle Trance, Anawan, and No Lands. Corey Dargel’s new album, OK It’s Not OK, comes out at the end of January and the label plans to follow that with records from the likes of NOW Ensemble, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Ted Hearne. There are also debut albums in the works from Killer Bob, Numinous, and the Will Mason Ensemble, plus a follow-up to the GRAMMY-winning release by Roomful of Teeth.

Longstanding DIY indie outlet Kill Rock Stars enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reaction to releasing Hari Kondabolu’s debut comedy album, Waiting For 2042. They plan to follow that with a record from fellow comedian Ian Karmel (of Chelsea Lately and Adam Divine’s House Party), to be recorded live at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon, on February 7th, along with a new album from Seattle-based rippers Kinski. While we’re writing about pillars of the indie rock community, Epitaph records has new releases in the pipeline from Joyce Manor, Pianos Become The Teeth, and Plague Vendor. Sister label ANTI will be dropping albums from Tweedy and Son Little.

San Francisco-based Fat Wreck will release Strung Out’s first album in six years this March, followed in April by Good Riddance’s first record in nine years. They also have new records in the works from toyGuitar, Night Birds, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, and The Real McKenzies, plus the debut solo album from Darius Koski of the Swingin’ Utters!

In 2014, Alternative Tentacles released a ton music from bands like Peace Creep, Itchy-O, and The World/Inferno Friendship Society’s This Packed Funeral. For 2015, they plan to release the complete discography (a three-volume LP) of the legendary Texas Killed By Death hardcore band Really Red. They’ll also have a couple of bits from Jello Biafra: a live recording, and a companion big-hole 45 for his side project, Jello Biafra and The New Orleans Raunch & Soul All Stars.

Founded in 1996 by the bass player and guitarist for THE VANDALS, Kung Fu records continues to blaze trails with an unstoppable barrage of punk records, including the long-awaited vinyl reissues of The Ataris’ So Long Astoria and The Vandals’ BBC Sessions & Other Polished Turds. In addition, the label is working on the release of a digital comic book called Fear Of A Punk Planet.

EU digital VAT changes and Bandcamp

If you’ve seen the recent news of changes to EU tax law, you may be wondering how this affects you as an artist or label selling on Bandcamp. The good news is that for digital sales, there is no need for you to register for VAT, submit quarterly reports, and so on. We will take care of all of that for you.

If you happened to see our earlier help item about this, we planned to roll out a temporary solution where artists submitted the tax themselves. We’ve decided to accelerate the changes to our system such that the interim step is unnecessary.

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