In the Flat Field Throwing Muses Filigree & Shadow Doolittle
Heaven or Las Vegas Mouth by Mouth Visions Mature Themes

There's never a bad time to honor 4AD, an English independent label founded in 1979 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, but this is as good an occasion as any other. HarperCollins' Friday Project imprint has recently published Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD, a 600-page book written by veteran journalist Martin Aston. (It was released in the U.K. in September; in the U.S., it's due the 19th of this month.) It's an exhaustive, minutiae-packed documentation of a label that has released cult classics by the likes of Cocteau Twins, Throwing Muses, and Pixies, as well as a couple unexpected global hits (Modern English's "Melt with You," M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up the Volume), and a fair share of flops that missed the mark creatively and commercially. Since Watts-Russell's 1999 departure, 4AD has resembled its original form, both sonically and graphically, less and less, but it has continued to be a widely respected source for left-of-center music. From its start through its current state, the label has developed a league of obsessive fans -- one that includes the editors who share their favorites below.

Heather Phares
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Blonde Redhead - 23
The Breeders - Pod
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
Kristin Hersh - Hips and Makers
Frank Black - Frank Black
Future of the Left - Travels with Myself and Another
Lisa Germano - Geek the Girl
Grimes - Visions
His Name Is Alive - Mouth by Mouth
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Fordlandia
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Pixies - Doolittle
St. Vincent - Actor
Tarnation - Gentle Creatures
This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Unrest - Perfect Teeth

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Only in My Dreams"
Blonde Redhead - "23"
The Breeders - "Doe"
Cocteau Twins - "Iceblink Luck"
Kristin Hersh - "Me and My Charms"
Frank Black - "Los Angeles"
Future of the Left - "Throwing Bricks at Trains"
GusGus - "Believe"
His Name Is Alive - "Can't Go Wrong Without You"
Jóhann Jóhannsson - "Fordlandia"
Lush - "For Love"
M/A/R/R/S - "Pump Up the Volume"
Pixies - "Dead"
St. Vincent - "Actor Out of Work"
This Mortal Coil - "Song to the Siren"
Throwing Muses - "Counting Backwards"
TV on the Radio - "Crying"
Unrest - "Six Layer Cake"
The Wolfgang Press - "Kansas"

David Jeffries
I'm an old school fan and drifted away after founder Ivo left the label, but there are still a couple newer releases on here that are in the original 4AD spirit. Here's to Clan of Xymox, the Wolfgang Press, and the mighty Colourbox, and here's to the folks who uploaded all those Lonely Is an Eyesore videos to the Web since my tape is still stuck in some broken VHS deck.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
Frank Black - Teenager of the Year
The Breeders - Last Splash
Pieter Nooten/Michael Brook - Sleeps with the Fishes
Clan of Xymox - Clan of Xymox
Clan of Xymox - Medusa
Cocteau Twins - The Pink Opaque
Cocteau Twins - Victorialand
Colourbox - Colourbox
Dead Can Dance - Into the Labyrinth
Grimes - Visions
Pixies - Doolittle
Red House Painters - Down Colorful Hill
Thievery Corporation - Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears
Scott Walker - Drift
The Wolfgang Press - Bird Wood Cage
Various Artists - Lonely Is an Eyesore

A.R. Kane - Lollita
The Breeders - Safari
Colourbox - Breakdown
GusGus - Ladyshave
M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up the Volume
Modern English - Gathering Dust
Modern English - I Melt with You
Pale Saints - Flesh Balloon
Pixies - Gigantic
The Wolfgang Press - Kansas

Thom Jurek
Matt Johnson - Burning Blue Soul
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
The Birthday Party - Junkyard
Cocteau Twins - Treasure
This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears
Dead Can Dance - Spleen and Ideal
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Lush - Split
Red House Painters - Red House Painters
His Name Is Alive - Stars on ESP
Belly - Star
Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona
Thievery Corporation - Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi
Lisa Germano - Geek the Girl
Tarnation - Gentle Creatures
Kristin Hersh - Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight
Brendan Perry - Eye of the Hunter
Scott Walker - Drift
Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

Rema-Rema - Wheel in the Roses
A.R. Kane - Love-sick
Frazier Chorus - Sloppy Heart
The Birthday Party - The Bad Seed
Bauhaus - Dark Entries
M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up the Volume
Cocteau Twins - Aikea-Guinea
The Wolfgang Press - Going South
Clan of Xymox - Blind Hearts
Colourbox - Punch
His Name Is Alive - Stars on ESP
Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
The Amps - Pacer
The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee
Atlas Sound - Parallax
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas

Andy Kellman [Spotify]
While later 4AD releases by Piano Magic, Scott Walker, TV on the Radio, Zomby, Grimes, and a few others have thrilled on some level, these two lists -- albums/EPs, followed by songs (a combination of A-sides, B-sides, EP lead tracks, and tracks with videos), both listed chronologically -- are limited to the Ivo Watts-Russell era. Aston's book has increased my appreciation for numerous individuals within the label's orbit, but no one leapt farther than Martyn Young, a reluctant recording artist (Colourbox, This Mortal Coil, M/A/R/R/S) who reached number one with "Pump Up the Volume" and promptly stopped releasing music. One particular paragraph, regarding Vaughan Oliver's design of the lavish edition-of-100 Lonely Is an Eyesore box set and Young's creative repurposing of a personal copy, brilliantly destroys the perception of the label roster as nothing but stuffy artsy-fartsy types. (Then again, the part about the mooning members of Dif Juz is earlier in the book.)

Rema-Rema - Wheel in the Roses
The Birthday Party - Prayers on Fire
Modern English - Mesh & Lace
Dif Juz - Vibrating Air
Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels
Colourbox - Colourbox
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
Pieter Nooten/Michael Brook - Sleeps with the Fishes
Throwing Muses - House Tornado/The Fat Skier
Pale Saints - The Comforts of Madness
The Breeders - Pod
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
Red House Painters - Down Colorful Hill
His Name Is Alive - Mouth by Mouth
Insides - Euphoria
Throwing Muses - University
Mojave 3 - Ask Me Tomorrow
The Hope Blister - Underarms
Brendan Perry - Eye of the Hunter

The Birthday Party - "The Friend Catcher"
Dance Chapter - "Anonymity"
The Past Seven Days - "Raindance"
Modern English - "Life in the Gladhouse"
Colin Newman - "We Means We Starts"
Colourbox - "Tarantula"
Xmal Deutschland - "Qual"
Cocteau Twins - "The Spangle Maker"
Colourbox - "Punch"
Cocteau Twins - "Great Spangled Fritillary"
Dif Juz - "No Motion"
A.R. Kane - "Lollita"
M/A/R/R/S - "Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)"
Pixies - "Monkey Gone to Heaven"
Lush - "Nothing Natural"
The Breeders - "Safari"
Unrest - "Cath Carroll"
Lush - "Hypocrite"
Throwing Muses - "Bright Yellow Gun"
GusGus - "Believe"

Aneet Nijjar
Bauhaus - In the Flat Field
The Birthday Party - Junkyard
The Breeders - Last Splash
Clan of Xymox - Medusa
Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels
Cocteau Twins - Treasure
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
Dead Can Dance - Dead Can Dance/Garden of the Arcane Delights
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Dif Juz - Extractions
The The - Burning Blue Soul
Modern English - After the Snow
Pieter Nooten/Michael Brook - Sleeps with the Fishes
Pixies - Doolittle
Rema-Rema - Wheel in the Roses
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears
This Mortal Coil - Blood
Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona

The Birthday Party - "Release the Bats"
M/A/R/R/S - "Pump Up the Volume"
The Breeders - "Safari"
Xmal Deutschland - "Qual"
Bauhaus - "Dark Entries"
The The - "Controversial Subject"
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Round and Round"
Pale Saints - Barging into the Presence of God
Colourbox - "Breakdown"
This Mortal Coil - "Song to the Siren"

Fred Thomas
There are tons of labels with cult followings, and plenty of labels with rosters so strong the labels achieve an equal type of fandom, but somehow, 4AD transcended both of those options to become more of a lifestyle. I've run into more than one successful long-term couple who, when asked how they met, sheepishly and weirdly confess they met on a 4AD message board and the rest was history. Not just thriving through, but helping define the college rock golden era of the '80s and the post-Nirvana alternative boom of the '90s, 4AD has kept it consistently weird, dark and beautiful from their very beginnings and kept that spirit alive to the present day. While the gothic ambient pop and twisted dark rock roster of the label's early days is almost across-the-board legendary, artists signed in the 2000s and beyond like Deerhunter, Grimes, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti, and Gang Gang Dance keep the shadowy fires burning as the label edges toward 35 years of otherworldly sounds.

Grimes - Visions
His Name Is Alive - Livonia
His Name Is Alive - Stars on ESP
Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
The Amps - Pacer
The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee
Atlas Sound - Parallax
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas