Carpark Records: Sixteen Years of Sweating, Shoe-Gazing, Chill-Waving Indie All-Stars


Today, Carpark Records celebrates sixteen years of shaking up indie with its eclectic and freewheeling roster of artists, which includes Beach House, Toro y Moi, Dan Deacon, and TEEN. What started as a haven for dance music and electronic musicians has become one of the most diverse and prolific indie labels today. In 1999, Todd Hyman, a Manhattan record shop clerk and electronic-music enthusiast, founded Carpark as a one-man operation, handling everything from designing CD packaging and plotting tours to creating the Web presence for the new endeavor. In 2002 Hyman created subsidiary label Acute Records (which reissues hard-to-find postpunk records) with DJ Dan Selzer, and in 2003 launched Paw Tracks (which hosts Animal Collective and associated solo acts Avey Tare and Panda Bear). Hyman left Brooklyn for Washington, D.C., in 2005, but Carpark’s past, present, and future are firmly tied to the label’s beginnings in New York.

Party favors are great and all, but a shindig — especially a Sweet Sixteen — needs the perfect soundtrack, which isn’t hard to compile from the company Carpark keeps. In honor of the genre-defying label’s longevity, here are sixteen videos from past and present Carpark Records artists you need to revisit.

“Blessa” by Toro y Moi

The first single from Toro y Moi’s critically acclaimed 2010 debut album, Causers of This, introduced us to Chaz Bundick’s brand of thoughtful, jangly, airy synthpop. Causers of This ushered him smack dab into the middle of chillwave, with all its dreamy pop cut with ambient sound and synth-heavy accents. Rolling Stone christened him “the chillwave godfather” (a genre he has since departed from, following 2013’s Anything in Return).

“Crystal Cat” by Dan Deacon

From the electro-inflected artist’s first commercially released album, 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings, “Crystal Cat” is a cocktail of rambunctious beats, joyous wailing, and psychedelic-bright sights. Deacon’s signing ushered in a new era for Carpark Records, with more indie-leaning Baltimore artists joining the new-to-D.C. label.

“Gila” by Beach House

The Charm City–based duo (Victora Legrand and Alex Scally) will celebrate nearly a decade of making atmospheric music rife with seaside breezability together later this year. “Gila” is the first single from their 2008 sophomore album, Devotion, which would go on to make an appearance on a number of year-end Best Of lists.

“The Prince and the Palm” by Jake Mandell

Jake Mandell’s 1999 Placekick EP was Carpark Records’ first-ever CD release. Here, “The Prince and the Palm,” from his 2001 album Love Songs for Machines, features his signature plucky, syncopated synths and futuristic techno beats that closely associated Mandell with all things laptop-pop.

“Baby M” by Marumari

The slinky basslines and warbled, moody vocals from electronica artist Marumari’s (a/k/a Josh Presseisen) 2001 album Supermogadon could very well have scored the goings-on of some sci-fi netherworld — which isn’t far from the truth. According to Pitchfork, Supermogadon‘s cover art and song titles were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

Electric” by TEEN

The five-year-old, Brooklyn-based female quartet are all about authoritarian vocals, spiky guitars, and blankets of hair in this track from 2012’s In Limbo. Lead singer Teeny Lieberson played keys for Here We Go Magic before forming TEEN with her two sisters and a friend.

“No Below” by Speedy Ortiz

One of the newest additions to the Carpark Records family, the shambolic indie rockers drop their second album, Foil Deer, on April 21. The band’s harsh yet hypnotizing melodies and singer Sadie Dupuis’s vocals drew comparisons to Nineties rockers Liz Phair and Pavement. (The Pavement connection isn’t too far a stretch, either: Dupuis was once in an all-girl Pavement cover band called Babement.)

Lexie Mountain Boys

The perfect amalgamation of Carpark Records’ chameleonic roster, Lexie Mountain Boys’ live performances are equal parts frenzied harmony, percussive chant, and moving museum installation. They formed in 2005 with a rotating cast of Baltimore friends, perplexing critics with their cross between performance art and choral-group aesthetic.

“Sparkly” by Young Magic

Globally minded dream-pop pair Melati Malay and Isaac Emmanuel collect natural sound recordings from their travels. This video, from their 2012 album Melt, features footage collected from their travels along the east coast of Australia. Young Magic dropped their sophomore album, Breathing Statues, last May, which critics praised for its cohesion and cinematic quality.

“Fiona Coyne” by Skylar Spence

Skylar Spence (Ryan DeRobertis, formerly known as Saint Pepsi) pairs spunky soul vocals and discotheque vibes in this title track from the “Fiona Coyne/Fall Harder” 7″ vinyl — his Carpark debut. DeRobertis lists Drake, new wave, funk, and Degrassi among his inspirations, as Fiona Coyne was the name of a character on the series. (We’d be down with a track dedicated to Spike, too.)

“Teenage Rhythm” GRMLN

GRMLN is the alias for Japanese-born Yoodoo Park, whose melodic growl, hurtling guitar chords, and crashing drums pose as perfect road-trip music. “Teenage Rhythm” is the first single from 2013’s Empire, which solidified Park’s induction into a new generation of Cali-cool surf rockers. Park also garnered attention for his inventive choice of covers, from Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” to Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.”

“Guy Picciotto” by Greys

These Toronto shoegazers waste no time piling on the noise, wails, and feedback in their appropriately grayscaled music video from their first full-length, last year’s If Anything. Perhaps tired (or making light) of critics’ constant comparisons to post-hardcore band Fugazi, they named their first single, above, after the band’s singer/guitarist.

“Rio” by Adventure

Drone-y vocals and Eighties video-game dance beats permeate “Rio,” from Baltimore transplant Benny Boeldt’s 2011 sophomore album, Lesser Known. Boeldt was once associated with Baltimore art collective Wham City, which boasts Carpark Records’ veteran Dan Deacon as one of their musicians.

“Heaven” by Popstrangers

This heady trio from New Zealand makes ethereal, punk-inflected pop on “Heaven,” from their first full-length album, 2013’s Antipodes. Last year’s Fortuna signaled a sonic departure for the band, which had them graduating to more melodic, airy compositions.

“Yes I Know” by Memory Tapes

Memory Tapes’ (a/k/a Dayve Hawk) gorgeous vocals rise like a fleet of balloons on “Yes I Know,” from 2011’s Player Piano. That same year, the video was nominated for a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.

“Should Have” by Cloud Nothings

In this video for the Ohio natives’ single from their self-titled 2011 album, youth is a weird, wonderful, and sun-drenched thing. Cloud Nothings began life in 2009 as a solo project for lead singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi, who was then a Case Western Reserve University freshman, before adding drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist Dan Saleh.

Carpark Records will throw the first of its sixteenth birthday parties at Baby’s All Right on March 6, with Lexie Mountain Boys, Greg Davis, Greys, Chandos, Ear Pwr, Safety Scissors, Adventure, Jimmy Whispers, and more. Find tickets here.

See also:
Learning About Speedy Ortiz by Bowling on the Eve of 4Knots Music Festival
Dan Deacon Sweats It Out at Baby’s All Right
Brooklyn Record Label Captured Tracks Takes Risks, Avoids Soundscan, and Sees Results

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