Fred Hystere’s Label Of The Year: Cascine

In a year when I discovered MANY record labels to fall in love with, one rose to the top of my pile more frequently than any other. That record label is Cascine.

The past few years we’ve witnessed the complete collapse of entire industries before our very eyes – but few have collapsed more than the music industry. While I agree that piracy has contributed to the decline of album sales, I honestly think that the record labels are continuing to overlook one major fact: The music they release is SHIT – which is why this is an exciting time to be an independent label, an independent artist and an entrepreneur.

That’s where Cascine comes in..

Cascine was founded by Jeff Bratton, a massive music fan with a unique ear for top quality music. In fact, the thing that I love MOST about Cascine is that each artist represents a fresh take on a sliver of music history as opposed to a ‘movement.’ (Example: Grunge was a movement – Trip Hop was a sliver.)

Many of the artists signed to the label belie most stereotypes, genre-wise. An example is one of my favorite bands signed to Cascine, Shine 2009, i.e., two white Finnish dudes who make Paula Abdul-style pop circa 1991. But Shine 2009 are just one example of a label whose diversity is only outdone by the quality of the music they release.  Pandr Eyez bring to mind Aalyiha as the lead singer of Portishead; while Selebrities are Joy Division with a female lead singer, and Chad Valley is the Beach Boys through the sonic eyes of 2011.

That’s what makes Cascine so great. They have an ear for contrast that’s unlike any other label I’ve heard in years. My emotions run the gamut while listening to each of their artists individually; while collectively their artists take me on journeys around the world through snapshots of music history; telling the story in their own unique way and with their own spin.

If you are a true fan of music – the history, evolution and future – pay attention to Cascine, the most exciting record label to come around in years. Check out  10 of my favorite songs released by Cascine in 2011 below.


1. Selebrities “Into The Night”


2. Shine 2009 “Public Exposure”


3. The Whendays “Namnlos”


4. Pandr Eyez “Leave Me Here”


5. Chad Valley “Fast Challenges”


6. Southern Shores “Grande Comore”


7. Wintercoats “Blood Prints”



8. Chad Valley “Shell Suite”


9. Jensen Sportag “Gentle Man”


10. Wintercoats “The Sea Change”



Fred Hystere’s #1 Album Of 2011: PJ Harvey “Let England Shake”

I’ve been a massive PJ Harvey fan more or less since the very beginning. In fact I played her 2nd album, Rid Of Me, on my Walkman so much, that the tape began to slow down from being too worn. To say she’s one of my favorite artists of all-time would be like saying I sort-of enjoy eating Nutella.

Throughout her career, each one of PJ Harvey’s albums have been 180 degrees different than the one previous. From the screeching nervous breakdown noise punk of Rid Of Me to the delta bluesy To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey always likes to challenge herself to create something she’s never created before. She’s never faltered and never disappointed; she continued that trend with the crowning moment in her storied career, 2011’s Let England Shake.

Whereas historically PJ Harvey’s albums have generally focused on telling stories through the eyes of one person, Let England Shake is her first album to reflect the world we currently live in, a world filled with war. Jam-packed with some of the most catchy tunes of her career, and deceptively wrapped around happy-sounding jangly folk melodies, Let England Shake tells brutal stories of history and war with bluntly disturbing imagery, such as on lead single “The Words That Maketh Murder” where she speaks of soldiers “falling like lumps of meat.”

Like most of Harvey’s albums, you have to really dig deep into the lyrics to appreciate the brilliance of Let England Shake. True to form, it’s unlike anything she’s created before; something she prides herself on:

“My biggest fear would be to replicate something I’ve done before.”

This is a woman who lives for creative challenges and continues to inspire more and more with every masterpiece she creates. Let England Shake is not only the best album of the year, but it’s quite possibly the best album of the past 10 years. If you’re a political and history buff like me, it shouldn’t take you long to appreciate what she’s created on this album. As NME rightly pointed out:

“Francis Ford Coppola can lay claim to the war movie. Ernest Hemingway the war novel. Polly Jean Harvey, a 41-year-old from Dorset, has claimed the war album.”

*PJ Harvey’s 10th album, Let England Shake, is out now via Vagrant Records.


PJ Harvey “The Words That Maketh Murder”

Fred Hystere’s #2 Album Of 2011: Shine 2009 “Realism”

For me, the year in music belonged to a new record label named Cascine – more on them later. The centerpiece of Cascine’s unique catalog? Shine 2009‘s debut album, Realism.

More than any other artist in 2011, Shine 2009 had the ability to take the edge off my most foul of moods, thanks to their smooth early 90s throwback jams. Interestingly enough, I was never even a big fan of the era Shine 2009 revisits on their excellent debut, Realism. Musically, you’re almost instantly reminded of Paula Abdul’s stranglehold on the pop music charts while listening to the album. While I thought Paula Abdul was ok back then, I now have a new-found appreciation for her sound that I never expected to have thanks to these guys.

Their vocals are smooth, their beats are old-school and their music makes you want to wear pastels and chill on the beach with a fruity umbrella drink one minute, and kick off your shoes after a long day at work and waltz around your apartment with a dirty martini in tow, the next. Easily the most pleasant surprise of the year, Shine 2009’s debut album Realism is my 2nd favorite album of 2011.

PLAY: Graduation, So Free, New Rules, World

*Shine 2009’s debut album, Realism, is out now via Cascine.


Shine 2009 featuring Paula Abdul “So Free” 

Fred Hystere’s #3 Album Of 2011: Jamie Woon “Mirrorwriting”

After coming in #4 in the BBC’s annual Sound of 2011 poll, a lot was expected from London-based soul singer, Jamie Woon. After peaking at #15 in the UK album charts back in the early spring, Jamie’s debut album, Mirrorwriting, fell off into oblivion and he’s been scarcely heard of since. And that’s is a damn shame because Mirrorwriting is an album filled with subtle beauty that every music fan should know about.

Jamie graduated from the famed BRIT School, which gave us Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap and Adele to name a few. His talent is just as massive as all three of those ladies and I’d venture to say that he possesses one of the most beautiful voices on a male solo artist we’ve heard since George Michael – though their styles are extremely different.

Ever since he came out with a couple of well-received singles a few years ago, I’d been looking forward to the release of Jamie’s debut album. However, expectations often times fall short these days – especially with male solo artists – and I honestly didn’t expect anything even remotely as perfect as Mirrorwriting turned out to be.  Listening to his music reminds me of that feeling you get when you go on a first date with someone you’re not too keen on in the beginning, but by the end of the night you’re left holding hands; feeling all googly-eyed and tipsy; heart pounding a mile a minute.

His blend of trip-hoppy R&B combined with that soulful voice of his, surprises and endears you to thoughts of spontaneous lovemaking after drinking a bottle of wine over wonderful conversation. A must hear.

*Jamie Woon’s debut album, Mirrorwriting, is out now via  Polydor.!/jamiewoon


Jamie Woon “Lady Luck”


Jamie Woon “Night Air”

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