From The Postal Service To Mudhoney: Sub Pop President Tony Kiewel Names 15 Special Label Releases

17 August 2023 | 4:14 pm | Tony Kiewel

Sub Pop President Tony Kiewel has told The Music all about the Sub Pop record label releases that hold a special place in his heart. Did your favourite make the cut?

Sub Pop graphic

Sub Pop graphic (Graphic Credit: Mitch Fresta)

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The Vaselines - Way of The Vaselines

There’s no doubt this is my most-played Sub Pop album of all time. It’s raw and catchy. Raunchy and sweet. Honest and funny. It’s just a total classic, and its lasting impact on indie and alternative music can not be overstated.

Beachwood Sparks - Make The Cowboy Robots Cry

Rooted in the cosmic California sounds of legends like Buffalo Springfield and Gram Parsons, this mini album pushed the band in new directions thanks in part to the production of Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service. It’s a beautiful and utterly singular album that saw the band infuse indie electronic flourishes into their country-tinged harmony-laden melodies.

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Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords

When we first started talking to Bret and Jemaine, we had no idea they might make a television series or that our albums would also serve as the soundtracks. We were confident that they would be making something undeniably great and we’d be fools not to work with them.

The Postal Service - Give Up

This album was made with the purest of intentions by some of the most talented and kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. That it’s also stacked from beginning to end with the catchiest songs ever is an added bonus. What started as a one-song collaboration for a DNTEL album evolved into this one-off album project. It’s also a master class in synth pop and the second highest-selling record in Sub Pop’s history.

Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

While not the first or even second most popular album by Father John Misty, I think it’s his most ambitious and fully realised. I still can’t believe Josh managed to craft such a thoroughly entertaining collection of songs while also tackling the deepest of existential dilemmas. The lyrics, the arrangements, the performances, the production, and the artwork are all operating on another level.

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Big Muff

A crucial slice of sludgy punk that defined my understanding of the Northwest scene long before I ever dreamed I might someday move there. Bluesier and funnier than any of their peers, Mudhoney might just be Seattle’s greatest gift to the world, and I’d point to this album as proof of that claim.

Clipping - There Existed An Addiction to Blood + Visions of Bodies Being Burned

These two albums, inspired largely by horror movies (especially blaxploitation films), are essential listening. Lyrical themes are coupled with production nods to seminal soundtracks, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There will be semiotics classes taught about these records someday, and even those students are unlikely to discover even half of what these guys have buried in these songs.

Hannah Jadagu - Aperture

This is quite simply one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve ever heard. Hannah’s intuitive understanding of melody and production flourishes are almost obscured by the straightforward honesty and earnestness of her lyrics.

The Shins - Oh, Inverted World

A coworker who also played drums in the Sub Pop band Love as Laughter brought back a tape of these songs after touring with them. It became a favourite overnight, and you’d hear these songs coming from multiple stereos around our office for months. So it was no surprise to us that this album would become a cultural phenomenon once we managed to make copies for the rest of the world.

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

A hip hop masterpiece created by a true visionary. This album pushes everything forward. It defies further description.

Bully - Lucky for You

On her 4th album, Bully channels all the best bits and bombast of my favourite Alternative albums from the 90s and crafts something personal, true and new. These should be the anthems for our times.

CSS - Cansei de Ser Sexy

When they were on the cover of NME, they were dubbed Brazil’s ambassadors to the Nu Rave scene. Lately, they’ve been pointed out as standard bearers for the Indie Sleaze movement. At the time, I just thought they were an art-punk band that seemed like they’d be an incredible hang. Thankfully both turned out to be true. One of the most fun bands I’ve ever worked with, who also took one of the most insane journeys I’ve ever seen. There should be a book.

Jeremy Enigk - Return of the Frog Queen

While still in school, I stumbled across this album in the used bin of a record store. I was and still am a huge Sunny Day Real Estate fan, so to discover that the lead singer had a solo album and to also get my hands on it months before its release made me feel like the luckiest person on the planet. That feeling was magnified a thousandfold when I actually put it on and discovered that Jeremy had also pivoted from emo to writing what I can only describe as an orchestral prog-pop epic.

Weyes Blood - And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

Weyes Blood feels like she comes from another era. Or better still seems like she comes from somewhere outside of time completely. The lyricism sometimes evokes greats like Joni Mitchell. There’s also the cosmic grandeur of artists like Kate Bush. But all of it is delivered by one of the purest voices I’ve ever heard in my life.

Tony Kiewel is a delegate featured speaker at BIGSOUND 2023. Check out the BIGSOUND schedule here.