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Label Profile
Matador Records

New York City

n 1989, current co-president Chris Lombardi created Matador Records with the label’s first release, H.P. Zinker’s ...And There Was Light, a very appropriate title considering the eventual impact Matador’s founding would have on the music world. The label soon progressed from a tiny, two person-run company located in Lombardi’s apartment to indie rock’s most important record label, home to names like Pavement, Guided by Voices, and Yo La Tengo. ...And there was light.

Independent music virtually revolved around Matador during the 1990s. Aforementioned lo-fi groups Pavement and Guided by Voices were defining the indie rock scene throughout the early to middle half of the decade, consistently proving themselves to be among the most creative bands out there. Yo La Tengo was breaking musical boundaries left and right, contributing more to Matador’s reputation as keeper of the country’s most brilliantly innovative groups with each successive release.

Matador’s success soon extended into Europe -- in 1996, Matador Europe started releasing albums by American bands such as Modest Mouse, Sleater-Kinney, and Unwound (who do not appear on the American roster, but rather belong to their own separate labels) to the European public. Offices were established in London for the Matador Europe staff.

More important than Matador’s remarkable success, however, is the manner in which they deal with it. Always one of the friendliest labels to its customers, Matador has never asked for more than just enough to get by, often resulting in Matador full-lengths available for $10 or less (*swoon*). Not to mention the amiable staff and the website’s very humorous FAQ section, which by itself has more personality than many labels ever reveal.

2002 saw a merge between the England-based Beggars Group and Matador, the former association having bought 50% of the latter. Matador Europe retained its separate offices while Beggars US moved in with Matador’s staff in New York. There were no significant changes, musically.

As the label continues to expand and flourish, it has begun to embrace a great number of varying genres. No longer involved exclusively with indie rock (if you could say it ever was -- the staff denies such a thing), Matador even has a place for electronic pioneers Matmos and renowned post-rockers Mogwai.

As well as brightening its future with a more diverse outfit, Matador maintains a few bands that promise to accomplish quite a bit. The highly lauded Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol’s debut, hinted that the band’s second album, which is currently in the writing/recording process, could be truly astonishing. You Are Free, Cat Power’s first album in almost four years, is currently receiving more than a little bit of acclaim, and for good reason. Mogwai and Yo La Tengo are each scheduled to release a full-length in the first half of the year, to unavoidably towering expectations (which I personally feel they will satisfy). Matador appears to have as auspicious a future as its triumphant past.

Label Roster: Aereogramme, Arab Strap, Cat Power, Cornelius, Dead Meadow, Mark Eitzel, Interpol, Large Professor, Lesser, Stephen Malkmus, Matmos, Mogwai, Preston School of Industry, The Soft Boys, Solex, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mary Timony, The Wisdom of Harry, Yo La Tengo

Ten Essential Releases:
Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Guided by Voices – Bee Thousand
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight...And How It Got There
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe

By: Kareem Estefan

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