Essentially a playlist

As I write this, the London riots are an ongoing concern (hopefully by the time this goes to print they’ll be over) and I’ve just finished reading about the Sony DADC warehouse fire in Enfield, U.K. that housed stock distributed by the PIAS Group. You might not be familiar with PIAS — a distribution group whose label has recently released albums from Grace Jones, Agnes Obel and the Middle East — but the list of over 150 small labels that they distribute in Ireland and the United Kingdom is sure to have some names you’re familiar with. The destruction of the stock of Soul Jazz, Ninja Tune, Domino and more in the fires, with insurance not covering losses due to rioting, could mean the financial ruin of some amazing labels responsible for releasing some wonderful music.

I’d encourage you to seek out the selections from this playlist and buy the stock while it’s still available.

Amon Tobin – “Dropped from the Sky” [from ISAM, released by Ninja Tune]

Brazilian-born beatmaker Amon Tobin has been calling Montreal his home since 2002 — fittingly, the city is also the Canadian home to Ninja Tune. With his latest album, ISAM, Tobin enlisted the help of designers, visual artists and engineers to create an unbelievable stage show he debuted at this year’s MUTEK festival. Search for “Amon Tobin ISAM live” on YouTube and prepare to be amazed.

Ghostpoet – “Cash and Carry Me Home” [from Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, released by Brownswood]

Shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Prize, the U.K. prize that inspired Canada’s Polaris, Ghostpoet’s record is part of a curious and challenging British hip-hop scene predominantly released on Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada. But this release comes via Brownswood, a label spearheaded by the legendary tastemaker/DJ/BBC host Gilles Peterson.

Art Ensemble of Chicago – “theme de yoyo” [from Les Stances A Sophie, released by Soul Jazz]

Oh Soul Jazz. Of all the names on the list of affected labels, this one has hit me the hardest. It’s the little boutique label that could. Each of their fantastic compilations and reissues are put together with the utmost care — sound quality, liner notes, artwork, musical selections. These are flawless releases. Fingers crossed they had some stock at another warehouse.

Wild Beasts – “Loop the Loop” [from Smother, released by Domino]

Domino is a particularly eclectic label, with a roster ranging from Animal Collective to James Yorkston, with Four Tet and the Kills in between. It’s a large enough tent that a lot of different bands fit underneath, including London four-piece Wild Beasts. Their melodramatic, swoon-inducing album Smother received a very favorable review from yours truly in the latest issue of Stylus.

The Sea & Cake – “Up on the North Shore” [from The Moonlight Butterfly, released by Thrill Jockey]

I love the Sea & Cake. Like, named-my-first-son-after-Archer-Prewitt-type-love. Their latest, The Moonlight Butterfly, is another in a long line of gorgeously crafted and perfectly executed pop.

tUnE-yArDs – “Gangsta” [from w h o k i l l, released by 4AD]

w h o k i l l is a strong contender for a lot of 2011 year-end lists, and Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs) is bringing her act to Winnipeg on Nov. 14 at the West End Cultural Centre. She recently performed alongside Questlove from the Roots on Jimmy Fallon and absolutely killed.

Tokyo Police Club – “Breakneck Speed” [from Champ, released by Memphis Industries]

Yup – even Canadian bands are affected by this. Dine Alone Records may be their label here, but Memphis Industries released Tokyo Police Club in the UK. Speaking of TPC – they’re about to undertake a covers project where they’ll record one song from each year of the past decade, over 10 days in a studio and debut the songs on ten separate web entities. Tune in to my show on UMFM, Thank God It’s Free Range ( in the next few weeks to hear them discuss this project.

Bjork – “Crystalline” [from Biophilia, released by One Little Indian]

This fire has even affected albums that haven’t been released yet. Bjork’s much anticipated new album, Biophilia is set to come out September 20th. I haven’t heard if One Little Indian’s stock of the record was in the warehouse, but let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Benny Sings – “Over My Head” [from Benny At Home, released by Sonar Kollectiv]

Berlin-based label Sonar Kollectiv was founded by one of my all-time favourite groups, Jazzanova. As the name implies, it’s run with collectivist principles. To quote the SK website: “All members participate in the process of production and the decisions about future releases.” The video below is a fan-made one since the soulful Dutchman didn’t make one for this wonderful song.

Ensemble – “Before Night” [from Excerpts, released by FatCat]

How’s this for a little cross promotion – in addition to this column, I write a blog about new music called Ear To The Sound. Back in March I wrote about this wonderful album and featured the mesmerizing video below.

Ty – “Break the Lock” [from Awkward, released by Big Dada]

I mentioned the UK hip-hop scene and Big Dada when talking about Ghostpoet earlier and while Roots Manuva is the undisputed King of that label, Ty is like a Duke or some other esteemed personage (honestly I don’t know much about the British monarchy apart from the Kate v. Pippa debate).

This Will Destroy You – “Little Smoke” [from Tunnel Blanket, released by Suicide Squeeze]

Here’s another album I reviewed in the most recent Stylus. I managed to shoehorn the bands Boston and Chicago into a review of a post-rock assault on your senses. Check it out after you watch the video.