Contrary to their name, Carpark Records is a label that releases a vast array of music spanning multiple genres. Perhaps the only aspect about the label to be “parked” in stagnation is a dedication to what’s cool, new and experimental.
Carpark Records was started in 1999 by Todd Hyman in New York City. In an interview with the publication Under the Radar, Hyman explains that the origin for Carpark came from his nights DJing at experimental electronic nights with friends in NYC. The group brought in live acts every week and often, Hyman found that they weren’t signed to a label. This motivated him to start one himself and thus, Carpark was born. The label migrated to Washington, D.C. in 2005.
Two of the most popular artists signed to Carpark Records are Toro Y Moi and Beach House. Carpark’s release of Toro Y Moi’s first album Causers of This in 2010 is cited by many to have spawned the genre “chillwave” – characterized by a reverb heavy and lo-fi combination of synths, R&B and psychedelia. Resident Advisor stated that this blend of sounds “recalls the warmth of sun on skin” while Pitchfork dubbed it “beach music” released “in the dead of winter”. Toro Y Moi didn’t stop there, even though many would call pioneering a new music genre a feat worthy of resting one’s laurels upon. Exemplifying Carpark’s dedication to the experimental, Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick’s following five releases on Carpark all had their own individual sound. 2015’s What For? was folky, psychedelic rock while 2017’s Boo Boo was an R&B record much in the same vein as Frank Ocean or The Weeknd but with Bundick’s special chillwave touch. This past year, Toro Y Moi put out Outer Peace on Carpark which is a Daft Punk inspired futuristic trip that feels more like a DJ set than an album. Toro Y Moi’s tenacity for experimentation throughout his body of work is evident of Carpark’s mission statement for new sounds and resistance to stagnation. Listen to the song that started it all below:
Carpark Records are also responsible for the early output of one of the biggest dream pop outfits around – Beach House. Inspired by the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil before them, this Baltimore duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally re-defined the dream pop genre with the release of their first two albums on Carpark Records in 2006 and 2008 respectively. On tracks such as “Apple Orchard”, “All The Years” and “Gila”, Legrand’s larger than life vocals sound like they are ringing through a Gothic cathedral as Alex Scally’s arrangements of ethereal synths, organs and fast strummed guitars explode and diminish throughout each track. Their fossilized bio on the label’s website states that besides playing music, Legrand works as a bartender and Scally as a carpenter. In the past 10 years, Beach House has become one of the most popular acts in alternative rock – leaving their day jobs behind them – thanks in part to the success of their initial releases on Carpark Records. Humorously, if you frequent YouTube video comments or Reddit threads about the band, one aspect of the bio still remains the same – and that’s Beach House reminding curious fans that no, “they are not dating, not related and did not grow up together”. Stream “Gila” below:
The sheer variety found on the Carpark label is pretty astounding. Carpark hosts TEEN, a Brooklyn based female trio of sisters who play alternative rock influenced by synth pop and pop groups of the 1970s and 1980s like The Bangles and Bananarama. Since 2010, they have released the albums of Cloud Nothings, a lo-fi pop punk band contrived by front man Dylan Baldi. Carpark released Dan Deacon’s absurdist electronic debut album Spiderman of the Rings, which launched his career. A conversation about Carpark would not be complete without mentioning Ryan DeRobertis, who was signed to the label after catching Hyman’s attention with the cult following of his “vaporwave” project, Saint Pepsi. His future funk releases with Carpark – under the name “Skylar Spence” to avoid litigation from the aforementioned soda company – pop and fizz just as much as his Soda Man output and but benefit from the additions of his vocal chops and instrumentation. Get up and dance to “Fiona Coyne” below:
Recently signed artists to Carpark Records include Fat Tony and GREYS. Not to be confused with the cigar smoking mobster from The Simpsons that he shares a namesake with, alternative rapper Fat Tony (real name Anthony Lawson Obi) has a penchant for goofy humor and wearing his punk rock and country influences on his sleeve. Carpark will be releasing his next studio album in February of 2020. Toronto’s Greys released their first album in three years Age Hasn’t Spoiled You on Carpark in 2019. A departure from their previous material, GREYS channels not only their post punk roots but also Nine Inch Nails style industrial, ambient and indie rock influences as well to channel feelings of “panic and confusion prevalent in our news feeds”. For twenty years, Carpark has been on the forefront of what is new and experimental. The records in their catalog reflect innovative sounds and new genres to be formed. Carpark Records shows no signs of running out of gas while traversing the musical landscape to find all that is cool and fresh.
Stream tracks by Fat Tony and Greys below: