While the internet has undoubtedly reduced their relative power and bridged much of the gap between artists and their fans, record labels—at least the good ones—act as curators, and help deliver music according to a particular perspective. Of course, those perspectives will often vary wildly from one imprint to the next, but that’s undeniably part of what makes following labels so much fun. In truth, 2013 didn’t really have one dominant label, or even a dominant sound, and as a result, the entries on this list don’t necessarily have all that much in common, apart from a devotion to steadily releasing excellent music. (Keen-eyed readers will also recognize many of our picks from October’s Labels We Love series.) That being said, during an era when people often complain about being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of music out there, celebrating labels whose activities are focused on quality seems like the right thing to do.
Launched in Sheffield, UK in 1989 and quickly becoming a key player within the nascent global electronic-music zeitgeist, Warp has remained true to its mission and provided a home for quirky sound pioneers for nearly 25 years. After a somewhat down year (by its own high standards) in 2012, the label got back on track and issued a series of top-notch releases in 2013, including new music from Mount Kimbie, Oneohtrix Point Never, Darkstar, Autechre, Mark Pritchard, and the long-awaited return of Boards of Canada. Amidst its busy schedule, Warp also found the time to present a double-vinyl reissue of LFO’s 1991 classic, Frequencies, and put together Feast/Beast, a double CD collection of remixes by and for label mainstay Clark. - Walter Wasacz
When New York party Mister Saturday Night launched its label arm in 2012, its sound was quickly defined by the success of Anthony Naples’ Mad Disrespect, the disco- and house-indebted debut outing from both the imprint and the young Brooklyn producer. That snap judgement, however, proved wrong, as the label’s second year has been defined by a willingness to explore a surprising breadth of sounds, with hard-edged techno and house (Lumigraph’s Yacht Cruiser, Hank Jackson’s Deposit, and Naples’ follow-up, “Moscato”) sharing the roster with more experimental fare from Archie Pelago and softer offerings in the vein of Alex Burkat’s beautifully orchestral Shower Scene. Through these eclectic choices, Mister Saturday Night has managed to replicate its party’s famously inclusive spirit on wax. - Derek Opperman