Label lust: Captured Tracks

We cast a light on the labels that matter. This week, Brooklyn's Captured Tracks.

Mac Demarco performs for Red Bull Sound Select at The Echo in Los Angeles, California.
Mac Demarco© Erik Voake/Red Bull Content Pool

With the likes of Soft Metals heading off on a UK and European tour and the hotly tipped Mac DeMarco (pictured) and DIIV releasing new albums, it's shaping up to be a big year for Brooklyn's Captured Tracks. But the imprint – five years old last year – has been busily establishing themselves as low-key but high-achieving indie players for some time now. Here's how they roll...

Who?

This New York indie marries an ’80s-influenced, slightly Anglophile aesthetic (The Cure, The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine are obviously touchstones) with a modern, nimble and open-minded approach to the actual business of releasing music. Founder Mike Sniper has summed it up as a desire "to be an identity but not limited in sound or in scope".

The History

The label is perfectly named; an alluring air of something shadowy, underground and clandestine endures. Like all the best indies, Captured Tracks started humble and low-key with a series of seven-inch vinyl and cassette-only releases back in 2009. And, also like all the best indies, it begins and ends with passion for music and the people who make it. Sniper is clearly a collector and a romantic, in love with the plucky underdog and the concept of music as artefact. Gradually, Captured Tracks have branched out into releasing albums but it seems the same guiding principles endure – he releases music he likes that isn't getting a hearing anywhere else.
 

The Sound

Is there a Captured Tracks sound? Maybe not but there's certainly a Captured Tracks feel. Think wistful and slightly melancholic but spiky, too. Guitars that chime, swirl and fuzz. Synths that bubble and soar. Vocals that murmur, low in the mix and never too imposing. If Captured Tracks was a film, it would probably be Pretty In Pink – but an indie, mumblecore version with a more ambiguous ending.

The Family

The label launched with a single by Dum Dum Girls. But they soon decamped to Sub Pop and lo-fi post-punks Blank Dogs (aka Mike Sniper's musical side-project) carried the torch for a while. Subsequently, the likes of Mac DeMarco (blurry, engaging pop and Red Bull Sound Select cohort), Wild Nothing (reflective, autumnal indie) and Soft Metals (arch synth melancholia) have all made waves. But perhaps the definitive Captured Tracks album to date has been Diiv's Oshin, an elegent, wistful epic of textured guitar and semi-submerged melody. The label has always mined the past for material too; since 2010, they've re-released records by '80s British eccentrics like the The Monochrome Set, Cleaners From Venus and The Servants (Luke Haines' former band and a big influence on Belle and Sebastian). They've also created the Shoegaze Archives which boasts, among others, reissues from under-rated LA noise-rockers Medicine.

The Future

Weirdly, it seems like at least part of the future could be odd – there's talk of a collaboration between Mac DeMarco and Tyler The Creator. De Marco has the sound (and looks) of the label's likeliest break-out star. Elsewhere, Captured Sounds have opened a record shop; a gesture that seems perfectly in keeping with their old-school inclinations but also demonstrates an enduring ability to move with the times and tweak familiar ideas with the shop offering listening booths curated by both the clerks and various guest bands. Elsewhere, look out for more reissues; basically, if you sported a floppy fringe and owned a fuzz pedal at any time between 1984 and 1993, there's a chance Mike Sniper will be in touch. And expect further consolidation from the label's modern wing – Juan Wauters' terrific debut N.A.P. is out now, and Diiv and Mac DeMarco both release new albums in the first half of 2014.
 

Red Bull Sound Select artists Soft Metals tour the UK and Europe from the end of April.

Mac De Marco’s new album, Salad Days, is out in April.

Five essential Captured Tracks releases.

More from Red Bull Sound Select.