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Because the cultural fascination with outdated media only continues to grow, Cassette Store Day—remarkably—celebrated its third year last week. That’s right: In 2015, cassette tapes are making so much of a comeback that there’s now an annual celebration of those little plastic rectangles that regularly got tangled in your car stereo circa 1985 to 1995. And D.C. is not immune to the cassette revival. Though no D.C.-area artists had any official Cassette Store Day releases, there’s nevertheless a proliferation of local labels who’ve joined the cassette revival. Below, a quick survey of the latest cassette releases from D.C.-area labels.
Babe City is quickly becoming the poster child for D.C.’s underground music scene: Between its DIY venue, label, and concert booking at Adams Morgan’s Songbyrd Music House and Record Café, Babe is everywhere. But it’s not too busy to devote time to putting out tapes of bands like BRNDA, the Sea Life, Go Cozy, and NYC’s Bueno.
Latest release: Witch Coast, Burnt Out By 3 p.m.
According to its own mythology, Bad Friend Records started “after years and years of hearing (and making) lots of music that didn’t fit on other labels.” That’s pretty accurate considering the label’s two cassette releases by experimental anarcho-noise band Drunken Sufis, which are nothing short of mesmerizing aural assaults.
Latest release: Drunken Sufis, Cotton Candy Cluster Bombs
Started in earnest in 2012 by Br’er and Pree’s Ben Schurr, Blight Records has since become one of the more prolific tape labels in D.C. In 2015 alone, Blight has put out tapes by Stronger Sex, Br’er, Pree, Hollow Boys, and Hallowed Bells.
Latest Release: Stronger Sex, Stronger Sex (Deluxe Edition)
Odessa Madre is the tape-only label started by Baby Bry Bry & The Apologist’s Bryan Gerhart, named after “The Queen of the Washington Underworld” in the 1940s. But unlike its infamous namesake, Odessa Madre Tapes isn’t controlling any brothels in the District, just putting out tapes by the UVF Rays, BRNDA, and Gerhart’s own Apologists.
Latest Release: The UVF Rays, Universal Friend Rays
Founded in 2011 by Brett Isaacoff, originally to release a tape of music by Russian proto-pop-punk band Wavepool Abortion, the cassette-and-digital-only DZ Tapes now focuses on local bands, with releases by D.C.’s Big Hush and Baltimore’s Romantic States.
Latest release: Hemlines, All Your Homes EP
Formed by the members of art-punk quartet Priests, Sister Polygon has become synonymous with some of the most forward-thinking, captivating music—in D.C. and elsewhere. Indeed, Sister Polygon was an early champion of bands like Pinkwash and Downtown Boys, who’ve since captured the attention of punks across the country.
Latest release: Gauche, Get Away With Gauche!
Graphic by Lauren Heneghan.