How about a countdown? Welcome to the first installment of what we hope to be a long-running series of staff-picks, various lists & mixes where we share our knowledge and fandom with you. We've been out here selling records for over two full decades now, so we figured a good opening edition would be a list of our ALL-TIME top-sellers. We combined sales of CD, vinyl, tape, deluxe versions, and box-sets to get this definitive list. Naturally local artists and labels are well represented here. This is what we've been about for the last twenty years, enjoy!
15. The xx Self-Titled
Let's kick off the list with the xx and their debut full-length from 2009. This one probably squeaks into the list on the strength of the jam-packed in-store performance we hosted when the record came out. We were fortunate enough to book these guys before they totally blew up and a few hundred lucky folks got to see the xx perform on our modest stage, that was a good one!
14. Radiohead OK Computer
This classic has been out as long as Sonic Boom has been operating. It's kind of our Dark Side Of The Moon, always sneaking back into our best seller charts. Of course it's probably the fever for the recent OKNotOk deluxe reissue that pushed it into this list.
13. Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
This one was released just a scant 6 months after we opened our Ballard location, and has been selling steadily ever since. This record has a well earned status as a modern classic, cemented by the wonderful I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary. A mix of indie-rock, classic Americana, and studio experimentation, it's a natural favorite for the typical Sonic Boom regular.
12. -tie- Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings The Flood & Interpol Turn On The Bright Lights
Well, the numbers don't lie! We've got a tie at number 12. First, we're happy to have Neko on our list. This one released in 2006 was arguably her at the height of her powers, a gorgeously well written record played with an all-star cast. And of course Neko Case is an artist that cut her teeth here in Seattle early in her career.
For folks a certain age Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights practically defines an era. Another one released in the early days of our Ballard store in 2002, Interpol's update of post-punk motifs for the early 20th century really helped set the tone for the decade to come.
11. Amy Winehouse Back To Black
Next up is the late great Amy Winehouse's final record and masterpiece Back To Black. A bit of a record-collectors dream record, a classically structured single LP with one foot in the present and one in a storied past of big-voiced soul singers and girl-group number ones. We watch folks starting record collections all the time here at the record store and this has remained a go to for folks getting into vinyl since its release in 2007.
10. The Shins Oh Inverted World
Our first entry from the esteemed Sub Pop label, but it certainly won't be the last. This was the record that would change your life! Another release from the first days of doing business in Ballard, and another slow-burner sales wise. There have now been generations getting hipped to The Shins brand of sunny psych influenced indie-pop.
9. The Shins Chutes Too Narrow
Back to back! Looks like all the Shins fans walked back in to get the follow up record! The Phil Ek produced 2003 album was partially recorded here in Seattle and certainly helped solidify the sound and style of the early century pacific northwest.
8. Arcade Fire Funeral
Released in late 2004, this one was an absolute sensation. It was around this time your author first started working at the record shop and I must say, it felt like we were selling copies by the hour! Of course these guys have only gotten bigger since way back when but none of the subsequent records could surpass the sales of the debut in our store. Also, these Canadians will be the last non-northwesterners to show up on our countdown.
7. Death Cab For Cutie Transatlanticism
2003's Transatlanticism was kind of the coming out album for Death Cab For Cutie, after this it was on to bigger stages and major-labels, but certainly many fans would point to this as their master-work. Fun fact, the original vinyl edition of this one was pressed by the now defunct Sonic Boom record label, but those copies are long gone and for collectors only.
6. Band of Horses Everything All The Time
Another local sensation and another one from Sub Pop. If you lived in Seattle in 2006 you couldn't avoid 'The Great Salt Lake', it was seemingly played in every bar and coffee shop in town. In the world of 2018 we take it for granted that indie and Americana co-mingle, but it was the big Seattle bands from these years that really blazed that trail. That idea was already in the water here.
5. Fleet Foxes Self-Titled
Case in point right here. These guys really blow open the ideas that adventurous folk music and obsessive vocal arrangements could be for everybody. We have a long history with these guys, they were consigning their CDr demo at the shop well before they were signed. It's one of the great pleasures of record-store work to get to watch a band from day-one go on to great things. Worth noting, this is our best selling VINYL release of all time!!
4. Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Love Bad News
For fans of indie music there is before and after 'Float On', the ubiquitous single from Good News. Before, when you mention your interests at a family dinner the term indie might garner perplexed looks or a shrug, and after you might find your grandma tuned to the Indie satellite radio station. And this was a case of local boys done good, selling like hotcakes on their home turf. Who that watched these guys develop could have foreseen back in the late 90s that these guys would end up near superstars?
3. The Postal Service Give Up
From 2003, it's wild to consider how novel a fusion of electronics and emotional indie-pop seemed at the time. Sure a few bands had done it before, but at this level? Now in 2018 it's a formula that is just part of the fabric of the culture. This along with the Shins also really help define the the re-emergence of Sub Pop as a cultural force. Not all indie labels have so many generational touchstones under their belt, let alone from multiple generations of musicians.
2. Death Cab For Cutie Plans
The third and final entry on our countdown voiced by Ben Gibbard is the major-label debut of Death Cab For Cutie. It was 2005 and the CD market hadn't yet collapsed. This monster was a Billboard top-10 and certified platinum, not bad for a gang of kids from Bellingham, WA. Quintessentially northwestern, I know this was a big one for a lot of our regulars who've been coming here since the beginning. Did we mention the bass player worked here for a season?
1. The Head & The Heart Self-Titled
The top slot on our countdown is of course a hyper-local success story. Back in 2010 the original CD version of this record was self-released by the band, who at the time were based right here in Ballard. They were walking us in stacks and stacks of it, and we were selling them faster than they could get us more! That first pressing is also the best-selling self-released record we've ever handled too. Eventually signed to Sub Pop (another one!) our local secret got out to the rest of the world, and we sell a few copies a week right up to the present day. We'll leave you with a video of them playing right here in are shop back when the record was first released!