City Slang

City Slang

Gewinner*innen Bestes Label 2021

In the 90ies City Slang offered a European home to a number of other influential bands. Releases were lined up by the cream of America’s guitar underground, with Superchunk, Unsane, Don Caballero, Sebadoh, Cell, Jawbox, Guided By Voices and Hole among those releasing albums. Arriving the same year as Hole’s second album were the eponymous debut by Tortoise, a Chicago collective, and I Hope You’re Sitting Down, the first collection from Lambchop, the ever-changing Nashville ensemble. The former soon defined what became known as the post-rock movement, and the latter helped establish the alt.country genre. It soon became clear there was little point in attempting to characterise the label. This was indicative of City Slang’s priority: music itself, whatever form it took. It’s a habit which remains unbroken.

Fast Forward

During the last ten years, the label’s travelled as far afield as Algeria, where it found desert-rockers Imarhan, and Israel, home to producer Noga Erez, as well as Turkey, from where Jakuzi are subverting contemporary synth-pop. It’s scoured Scandinavia, where José González and also his trio Junip, purveyors of krautrock-influenced folk-rock, were discovered, not to mention Efterklang, and Anna Von Hausswolff, whose doomy epics proved especially ferocious.

It’s not just about breaking new acts, either: veterans like the UK’s Tindersticks now sit among the ranks alongside loyal longtimers like Calexico, who’ve also collaborated with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, and Lambchop. The label’s roster now encompasses everything from imaginative twists on dance music (Caribou, Gold Panda, Bayonne, Coma, Sinkane, Junior Boys, Roosevelt) to inventive twists on ‘new classical’ (Hauschka, Grandbrothers), via multiple forms of ingenious songwriting (Jessica Pratt, Son Lux, Laura Gibson, King Hannah) and, of course, the kind of raucous guitars with which it first launched (Pom Pom Squad, Nada Surf, Wives). A fascination with country music has also survived, though its venerable practitioners have – with as much conviction as that which keeps them with the label – moved far beyond the boundaries which once confined them. Loyalty is hard won, but there’s a reason City Slang inspires it.

The golden threads keeping all these artists together, of course, are the label’s singular vision and an inextinguishable passion for what it does. It’s never been motivated by fashion: in its world, great music exists beyond time and trends. That’s why each release still counts, whether its creators have since been neglected. Maintaining an unusual modesty, City Slang always let its artists do the talking, and if it exists in a league of its own – and it does – that’s because it’s content to do so, out of the spotlight. When you put the magic of music first, that’s all that really matters.

This, then, is the magic of City Slang, indispensable, innovative purveyors of the most remarkable form of art there is. That’s something anyone can see. It’s the music that’s in your imagination…