Sub Pop Records & Opinions on Beck and Fleet Foxes

In honor of Sub Pop Record's 20th anniversary, Jim and Greg speak with co-founder Jonathan Poneman and play their favorite tracks from the venerated Seattle label. Then stay tuned for their reviews of the latest album from Beck and the debut record from current Sub Pop artist Fleet Foxes.

Sound Opinions explores Sub Pop Records
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There has perhaps been no bigger news story this summer than the fuel crisis. But, while we're all affected by rising gas prices on a daily basis, it's easy to forget the impact on the music industry. As Sound Opinions has been discussing for years, the music business model is transitioning to put more emphasis on touring and less on album sales. This becomes hard, though, when a band can't even afford to get into its van and on the road. Jim and Greg talk to Beth Tacular, a member of the North Carolina band Bowerbirds, about the challenges independent musicians are facing this summer.

Sub Pop Records

Sub Pop Records, the label that made "grunge" a household word, is turning 20. Since its inception the small Seattle outfit has exploded internationally, giving music fans a dose of the Northwest punk sound with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney. Now Sub Pop is home to indie phenoms The Shins and The Postal Service, as well as comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. Jim and Greg speak with Jonathan Poneman, who started the label in 1988 with former fanziner Bruce Pavitt. Poneman explains that there was so much great rock in that area at the time that they were compelled to document it. But their ambitions didn't stop there. Poneman discusses Pavitt's assertion that the most vital culture happens outside the big media centers. This kind of big thinking paved the way for the breakout of regional music scenes and the idea that indie bands can be as big as major label ones.

To celebrate Sub Pop's anniversary Jim and Greg both pick their favorite tracks from the label. Greg starts with a song by The Afghan Whigs. He explains that the tradition of signing non-Northwest bands began with the Whigs. They started out as a faux-grunge band but became more distinctive when they brought in elements of soul. You can hear that in the track "Miles Iz Dead" off the album Congregation.

Jim also wanted to pick a song that showcased the diversity of Sub Pop. It's more than just a grunge label. Jim looks to Cardinal, a band that represents much of what's happening in the indie world today. The duo gave birth to orchestral pop, and one of its members, Eric Matthews, put out a terrific debut on Sub Pop in 1995 called It’s Heavy In Here. Jim chooses to play that album's opener, "Fanfare."

Modern Guilt Beck

Modern Guilt (Deluxe Version)

Modern Guilt is the 10th album from post-modern poster boy Beck. Beck has always gone for adventurous producers, and this time he's paired with DJ Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley. Greg thinks this is the most exciting "sounding" Beck record in years, but believes the innovative production is masking some poor songwriting. He only hears half a great record and gives Modern Guilt a Burn It. Jim is surprised to hear this because he has finally learned to stop worrying and love the Beck, "weirdo" that he may be. Jim loves the unlikely combination of sounds and the soulful writing and gives the record a Buy It.

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes

The latest band to break out on the Sub Pop label is Fleet Foxes. While they haven't reached Nirvana or Shins status, Jim and Greg agree that this is a band to watch. Fleet Foxes belongs to the "freak folk" music club, but Jim much prefers their deeper, more convincing sound. He loves their beautiful harmonies and melodies and is impressed by their deep influences, especially considering how young their members are. Greg agrees, adding that the sound is entirely their own, full of untraditional arrangements and dense atmosphere. Both critics give Fleet Foxes, their self-titled debut, a Buy It.

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