Twenty years of Babes, Girls, and Sleater-Kinney


Seattle-based record label Sub Pop Records is throwing a party for its 20th birthday. Unfortunately, some of its best acts from over the years will be missing. While Sub Pop has been female friendly in the past, it seems as if many of their great girl artists have left the business (at least for now.)

But since its an anniversary, now is a perfect time to look back and appreciate the wonderful music they have given us (you know, outside of the other great trailblazing stuff like Nirvana, Mudhoney, Flight of the Conchords and the Postal Service.)

Babes in Toyland

While never officially signed to the label, BIT released the single “House” on The Grunge Years album in 1991. Though Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero and Michelle Leon are frequently thought of as part of the riot grrrl scene of the 1990s Pacific Northwest, they were more like their male counterparts in Minneapolis at the time, as they were ahead of ladies Kathleen Hanna and Corin Tucker who name frontwoman Kat as an influence.

Velocity Girl

In the early ’90s, the east coast band released their debut album, Copacetic, on Sub Pop. At the time, it was something a little lighter than the label had been putting out, with Sarah Shannon‘s vocals and harmonies with bandmate Archie Moore providing more a little pop to the rock songs.


L7’s second album, Smell the Magic, came out on Sub Pop in 1990 but was later reissued in 1991 with three extra songs. The band came to be known for their on stage antics as well as their music, with singer Donita Sparks tossing a used tampon into an unruly crowd during the 1992 Reading Music Festival.


Sleater-Kinney released consistently awesome indie-rock albums that proved women were just as good (if not better) on the guitar, drums, and mic than any other man who has ever called himself a musician. Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss put out their last album in 2005 on Sub Pop, but I’m still hoping The Woods won’t be the last we hear from them.

Rosie Thomas

Sub Pop signed singer/songwriter Rosie Thomas in 2000 after hearing her on the Damien Jurado track, “Ghost of David.” She’s since released four albums on the label, including 2006’s These New Friends of Mine featuring Sufjan Stevens.


CSS (short for Cansei de Ser Sexy) is a Brazillian quartet that illustrates where Sub Pop is going in the future. Leaving behind an era of grunge and continuing on past indie rock, the label is being less strict and signing on bands with keyboards, drum machines and all-around electronic beats. With the success of CSS, it’s likely they will continue to experiment with up and comers like they have, which is what seems to keep them ahead of the game.

Happy birthday, Sub Pop!

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