For all the music lovers, we’ve teamed up with Sub Pop records to produce a mixtape, that’s far from being saccharine sweet. It features acerbic punk, rock and grunge tracks all about that elusive thing called love. Buy anything from our Tough Love collection and you’ll get a free cassette USB* version of the mix tape featuring 13 tracks you can listen to alone or with your, er, lover this valentine’s day.
After nearly 30 years in the music business, Sub Pop has gone from being a label primarily focused on local hard and heavy bands to one with a more diverse roster, with well over a thousand releases under its belt. The ‘romantic’ mix below is just a sample of their incredibly rich and forward-thinking catalogue.
Kristin Kontrol – Show Me
Dum Dum Girls’ mastermind Kristin Welchez’s new project moves away from her earlier, humble, lo-fi garage rock origins to bigger, dance-friendly synth pop. This might confuse traditional Sub Pop listeners, who expect every band to sound like Rein Sanction or Tad. This might initially sound like mainstream pop, but it has an inventiveness and cleverness that truly mainstream pop often lacks.
Male Bonding – Weird Feelings
These English lads drop a distorted bass line that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Nirvana record, add some noise-pop guitars, and throw in a big hooky chorus. Brevity has always been punk’s good friend, and Male Bonding knows how to write catchy, compact songs; this one wraps up in two and a half minutes. File between McLusky and No Age.
Mudhoney – This Gift
This anthem from Seattle’s Fathers of Grunge kicked off their 1989 self-titled record and still sounds fresh and relevant all these years later. Mudhoney forever prove that the Power of the Riff is timeless and that they have one of the most underrated rhythm sections in the underground rock scene.
Constantines – Love in Fear
These earnest Canadian rockers weren’t afraid of mixing 90’s post-punk (a la Fugazi) with stadium-ready, fist-pumping choruses on this one. Tight musicianship, ambitious songwriting, and stellar production are proudly on display. The Constantines broke up a few years back, but they thankfully left behind a solid catalog.
Kyle Craft – Eye of a Hurricane
There is a bit of early 70’s rock-and-roll swagger on this grandiose, piano-driven song by the Portland (by way of Shreveport, Louisiana) singer-songwriter. Kyle has a big voice and isn’t afraid to use it. (Nor is he afraid to rock a scarf on stage.) An easy criticism of modern indie bands is that most of them have no charisma or stage presence. Kyle has both in spades.
Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop – Every Songbird Says
It’s always risky when singer-songwriters decide to work together: one person’s vision might dominate the other’s, resulting in a lopsided record. With this collaboration, two highly experienced songwriters melded their talents and created a fully realized record, with lush ballads, sparse instrumentation, and superb vocals. It will sound good any time of the year.
Blitzen Trapper – Not Your Lover
There are echoes of 70’s country rock on this piano ballad from long-running Portland, Oregon, band Blitzen Trapper. Often lumped into the “Americana” scene, this band is more multi-dimensional than your average root-rock revivalist. Here, they show that they have musical and songwriter chops galore.
Shearwater – Pale Kings
Shearwater’s second record on Sub Pop showcases their powerhouse melodies. The alternative pop feel that brings to mind 80’s pop bands like Big Country. As far as I can tell, Shearwater is the only active band whose singer is also an ornithologist.
Shabazz Palaces – Noetic Noiromantics
Debuting with a mysterious CD-r, this experimental Seattle-based hip-hop group features Ishmael Butler, formally of the legendary Digable Planets. Shabazz Palaces—along with Thee Satisfaction—represent Sub Pop’s foray into Seattle underground hip-hop. It demonstrates local MCs have more to rhyme about than thrift shops.
Mass Gothic – Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me
This is the debut release from former Hooray for Earth singer Noel Heroux. The record was recorded at home in New York City over a period of several months. While the name suggests something gothy, like The Birthday Party or Bauhaus, this is song is upbeat and hooky, even if it still has a bummed-out edge to it.
LVL UP – Pain
Having borrowed fuzz pedals from their 90’s indie rock forbearers, this New York band aimed to blow up their amp fuses; by the end of the song, they’ve nearly succeeded. LVL UP previously self-released records on their label, Double Double Whammy, before making their Sub Pop debut in 2016.
*Available at select Dr. Martens stores worldwide, contact your local store for more details on availability.
Also available online at the following international websites from Friday 3rd February: