From Domino and 4AD to DFA and Young Turks
Andrew Trendell
12:29 3rd July 2015

4 July saw the USA celebrate 239 years of American Independence. All of this talk of survival, progress, determination and individuality got us thinking about independence in the music industry - and those smaller labels that brighten the more artful corners of this industry. 

You know who your favourite bands are - but have you ever stopped to notice how so many of them will share a logo on the back of their sleeve?

That label sign that screams as a mark of quality, of good taste. Here's to the 32 best and coolest indie labels defining the sound of 2015 - from Domino and 4AD to DFA, Young Turks, Fat Possum, Fat Cat and beyond. 

  • Rough Trade: No indie label list would be complete without Rough Trade. They brought us The Smiths, The Libertines and Arcade Fire. The pick of their roster right now is Brooklyn-based garage rock 4-piece Parquet Courts. They combine punk rock with evidence of coherent, accomplished songwriting to stunning effect.

  • Marathon Artists: With Childhood's debut album impressing on the label this summer, time in the shadows of other indie labels will come to a close. Life is about to get a lot louder for this London-based independent. Releases by Jamie Isaac, and Jagwar Ma last year also showed the label's ear for great new music.

  • Heavenly Records: Like all the labels on this shortlist, Heavenly have a knack for putting out consistently good music. Toy and Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs had a fantastic 2013 and Temples topped the Rough Trade's Albums Of The Year with Sun Structures.

  • FatCat: Honeyblood's self-titled debut album and Traams' new EP Cissa are more notable and awesome recent releases - but they're also worthy of your attention for bringing us Mazes, The Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, PAWS and Max Richter, while their alumni includes Animal Collective, Mum, Sigur Ros and Frightened Rabbit.

  • Sacred Bones: This Brooklyn-based label puts out music by many experimental, post punk and psychedelic artists including Zola Jesus, Moon Duo, The Men, Psychic Ills, Cult of Youth and Crystal Stilts. One of their biggest sellers last year was David Lynch's Big Dream which featured one of the most heart-wrenching tracks of last year: 'I'm Waiting Here' feat. Lykke Li. A new album from Marissa Nadler came out in the spring to high critical acclaim

  • Domino: Their huge roster includes the likes of Anna Calvi, Arctic Monkeys, and Franz Ferdinand. They have an impeccable ability to get in there early with bands that have that certain je ne sais quoi. Wild Beasts, The Amazing Snakeheads' Amphetamine Ballads, and Eugene McGuinness' Chroma are stand outs. Both evoke the heyday of simple stylish rock n roll.

  • XL: Incredibly consistent, they also have one of the best marketing teams in the business. The release of Jack White's Lazaretto was celebrated with a unique interactive theatre performance. Invites were summoned to an emergency medical appointment, told to wear clinical clothes and mouth masks and were held in a experimental lab before the singer and his band sprang into action for a full live set. Meanwhile, Jungle's album launch party earlier this month was held on a 1200 capacity rooftop in Peckham. They turned FKA Twigs into a global phenomenon in 2014 and look set to do the same next year with Ibeyi and Lapsley

  • Transgressive: Life on Transgressive appears to be good for FAMY who are often seen wearing the label's logo in the way a footballer wears his clubs sponsor. The London-based indie band recall Grizzly Bear are hot prospect for the label. Thumpers debut GALORE is more than worthy of your attention, and of more established acts Antlers, Foals and Two Door Cinema Club are on the roster.

  • Phantasy: This label have the honour of working with New Zealand psych-poppers Connan Mockasin whose 2013 album Caramel still sounds great today. Phantasy are also well focused on delivering the best in electronica. Daniel Avery released Drone Logic on the label, and we can't wait to see what they do next.

  • Slumberland: US label Slumberland have a no nonsense ethos: "Making music devoid of bullshit and true to their own voices, regardless of current popular taste."

  • Ninja Tune: The label was founded as a means to celebrate more underground music. The Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo, Mr Scruff will have provided students all over Britain with music to chill and party to.

  • Warp Records: Sheffield-based label Warp has represented some of the most influential and pioneering names in electronic music. In 2014, it continues to stay just as relevant, working with the likes of Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus, Bibio and Oneohtrix Point Never.

  • Lo Recordings: The label mainly deals in quality leftfield electronica. There's a huge back catalogue to delve through, however, Luke Vibert's Nuggets 3 and Grimes' Halfaxa are stand outs. In addition to specialising in digitally oriented music the label have been an important stepping stone for garage rockers Charles Howl.

  • Turnstile: Christopher Owens, Cate Le Bon, H.Hawkline, Gruff Rhys, Perfume Genius. Need we say more?

  • Third Man Records: The label broke the record for worlds fastest released single, studio-to store. He did it in 3 hours 55 minutes and 21 seconds. Now perpetually associated with vinyl, when Lazaretto was released via XL it became the highest selling vinyl for a first week of sale since 1991. The impressive roster includes everyone from the Black Belles to Wanda Jackson.

  • Bella Union: The label which is run by former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde have an incredibly varied and prolific output. Notably they brought us Fleet Foxes, whose beardy Americana saw them gain a reputation for one of the best live bands on the planet with their Crosby, Stills & Nash-esque harmonies and acoustic guitars. As well as Manchester's MONEY, one of Gigwise's favourite acts is Australian Radiohead inspired act The Trouble With Templeton.

  • Glassnote: The independent US label has helped create global success for Chvrches, Mumford and Sons and Daughter. They have an immaculate track record in bringing artists forward in the record industry and offer a close relationship that major labels can't afford.

  • Secretly Canadian: Adam Granduciel's band War On Drugs made one of the albums of the year. The album Lost In The Dream wouldn't have been made possible if it wasn't for Secretly Canadian who signed him off the back of some demo's that got into their hands. The rest of their roster is also definitely worth checking out: both for Here We Go Magic and Major Lazer.

  • Fat Possum: They release some of the finest alternative rock in America. Fat Whites are their latest signing, which reflects their penchant for punk and grunge. They also have lighter indie rock such as Tennis, The Districts, and the more psychedlic Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The diversity and quality is sublime.

  • K Records: The label was founded in 1982 in Olympia Washington. It's renowned for its anti-corporate independent music and underground DIY punk culture and has released music by Beck and Modest Mouse. Their influence was strongly felt within the grunge scene with Kurt Cobain had K Records tattoo. For 2014 they released Jeremy Jay's excellent new album Abandoned Apartments.

  • O Genesis: Tim Burgess is possibly the busiest man in indie, in addition to O Genesis he runs a pop up coffee shop called Tim Peaks, is running a solo career as well as performing with The Charlatans. O Gensis, however, is doing very well. His solo album Oh No I Love You, Slowgun, and Hatcham Social are particularly good.

  • Young Turks: Established as an imprint of XL Recordings in 2006, Young Turks boast the likes of The xx, SBTRKT, FKA twigs, Sampha and Wavves on their genre-spanning roster. (Pictured: FKA Twigs)

  • LuckyMe: The most cutting-edge and in-demand hip hop/electronica is coming from an unlikely place at the moment - Glasgow. Founded in 2007, LuckyMe looks after label co-founder Hudson Mohawke, Baauer, Cid Rim, Machinedrum, Jacques Greene, Rustie and basically anyone who's anyone in electronic music at the moment. LuckyMe also operate a visual arts studio. [Pictured: Cid Rim]

  • PMR: Amongst PMR's first signings, when they launched in 2011, were Jessie Ware and Disclosure. They're now two of the biggest artists in the UK, with Disclosure dominating the world and Jessie Ware proving to be the queen of neo-soul. The London-based label also look after producers Julio Bashmore, Two Inch Punch, Cyril Hahn, and Javeon. (Pictured: Jessie Ware)

  • Numbers: Another Glasgow label on the cutting-edge of electronic music, Numbers is an amalgamation of various clubs, labels and individuals that decided to come together as one formidable collective. As well as running some of the UK's best club nights, Numbers looks after the likes of Jackmaster (one of Numbers' co-founders), SOPHIE, Jamie xx and Mosca. [Pictured: Jackmaster]

  • Gringo: Based in Nottingham, Gringo have taken some of the best alt-rock bands on the scene under their wing. From noise-rock duo That Fucking Tank, the blistering weirdness of Grey Hairs to psychedelic punk quartet Sauna Youth, Gringo look after some truly brilliant and bizarre alternative acts. [Pictured: That Fucking Tank]

  • Hotflush Recordings: Founded by dance kingpin Scuba in 2003, Hotflush promotes the cream of underground dubstep, electro and house, overseeing releases from the likes of Mount Kimbie, Joy Orbison, Lando Kal, Paul Woolford and Sepalcure. [Pictured: Scuba]

  • Hyperdub: Formed by dub producer Kode9 in 2004, Hyperdub boasts legendary producers alongside hotly-tipped artists on its roster. Currently, it looks after Burial, and Zomby as well as newcomers Fatima Al Qadiri and Jessy Lanza - having previously put out tracks by joker. [Pictured: Fatima Al Qadiri]

  • DFA: Coffee maker, film maker, actor, producer, remix king, frontman, label owner. Is there anything that James Murphy can't do? Formed with friends Tim Goldsworthy and Jonathan Galkin, the iconic label were formed before LCD Soundsystem found fame. It started with a 12" of The Rapture's 'House Of Jealous Lovers', before going on to define the sound of modern dance-rock by dropping essential records from Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Hercules And Love Affair, Factory Floor, Liquid Liquid, Holy Ghost, The 2 Bears, Shit Robot and way more. (Pictured: LCD Soundsystem)

  • Dirty Hit: Relatively young in comparison to other indies, Dirty Hit may have only started in 2009, but since then it has helped shape tastes and lead trends by dropping brilliant releases by the likes of The 1975, Wolf Alice, Marika Hackman and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. They certainly have a sharp eye for what's awesome. (Pictured: Wolf Alice)

  • 4AD: Among the true daddies of the indie label world, these guys have previously brought us the likes of everyone from Pixies and Camera Obscura to Beirut, TV On The Radio and St Vincent. Still known for their impeccable taste, their roster these days includes Ariel Pink, Atlas Sound, Bon Iver, Camera Obscura, Daughter, Deerhunter, Efterklang, Future Islands, Gang Gang Dance, Grimes, Indians, Iron & Wine, Lo-Fang , Merchandise, The National, Purity Ring, Scott Walker, SOHN, Twin Shadow, Tune-Yards and The National. (Pictured: The National)

  • Matador: The history of Matador is timeline of true greats from the worlds of rock, indie and anything with imagination. Known as a mark of quality and for their brilliant relations with artists, their roster includes the likes of Interpol, Queens Of The Stone Age, Belle & Sebastian, Perfume Genius, Darkside, Cat Power, Savages, Pavement and Fucked Up. (Pictured: Interpol)

  • Wichita: Founded in London in 2000, the musical landscape would be a much duller place if it weren't for Wichita - the imprint that's brought us seminal releases from the likes of Bloc Party and The Cribs to Bright Eyes and Girlpool. Currently dropping releases by Mothers, FIDLAR and Girlpool, they're still making music that matters.

  • One Little Indian: Bjork, Asgeir, Olga Bell, God Damn and Samaris are just a few of the acts on their incredible roster currently - always dropping music that pushes the envelope and changes the game.


Photo: Danny Payne/Press/Gigwise