Circuit Sweet Interview, Feature, Reviews

Rad Releases 20 – Specialist Subject Records

December 15, 2020

Rad Releases 20 – Specialist Subject Records

It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2020 rapidly approaches and we quickly want to move away from this year- we take a personal look back on familiar names, labels, promoters, and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a challenging year for all, the one constant has been how artists and their labels have adapted and produced some of the best records of our time and it’s those releases that have the audience has depended on to get them through the year.

This year the Rad Releases special celebrates 10 years, to mark the decade-long feature we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have kept them going throughout this trying year. Telling us how they’ve adapted, if they’ve returned to a loved record and what we can look forward to from them next year.

Our first take over comes from Bristol’s finest label and record store Specialist Subject Records. This year they’ve thrown themselves into continuing to safely provide their community with access to the best records and zines. The label launched their essential podcast “Flick Through”, where the team uncover the interesting, unusual and sometimes controversial stories behind punk and indie rock records from the contemporary to the legendary. At the start of lockdown the label hosted some incredible live streams too! Specialist Subject Records have also been the home to some of the most standout releases from artists too- (we’re looking at you Hamburger/ Neurotic Fiction). We hand over to Kay, who discusses the entire team’s year in music with picks from Erica, Andrew, and Rory….

Top Releases Of 2020

I haven’t picked any from the label because I’m so proud of all of them & it’s too hard to choose!

Beach Bunny – Honeymoon LP

Knew this would be on my AOTY list as soon as it came out at the start of the year!

Public Eye – Music For Leisure LP

A great record we discovered on one of the Bandcamp Days & has been on rotation ever since.

Dig Nitty – Reverse of Mastery LP

A choice from Andrew! He said it’s comforting.

Sweeping Promises – Hunger For a Way Out LP

A pick from Rory! He says it came right out of leftfield and it’s chock full of bangers.

Gladie – Safe Sins LP

I know this record means a lot to Erica – she talked about it on episode 4 of our podcast series Flick Through!

The Best Gig Attended (if had the opportunity at the start of the year)

In February Toodles & the Hectic Pity organised a release show (for their EP Ghosts, Guilt & Grandparents) in a church cyrpt and ask Cosmit (a new band Erica and I are in) to open. It was our second gig, Garden Centre played too. It seems alien right now to think of how great that night was!

Has there been any record that’s got you through this year?

This is hard as it’s been a year of such ups and downs! Working from home has completely changed our listening habits- we no longer have Spotify soundtracking our day in the shop, and now alternate between podcasts, radio, TV, records, Bandcamp and SILENCE. Building a Bandcamp collection has been really fun & helped me listen with more purpose.

How have you adapted with releasing/promoting during this year?

We closed our shop on 17th March and have no idea when we’ll be able to re-open it! It’s hard when the shop and Exchange music venue is such a huge part of what we do- putting on gigs, going to gigs, having people from all over the world come and visit us. It’s been a challenge adapting to something that is pretty much all online. Andrew and I work from home now and Rory has been fufilling online orders from the shop- which has been a huge help. I’m grateful we haven’t been in a position where we’ve had to stop offering hours to Rory or Erica.

Best discovery this year?

I’ve discovered and learnt so much through doing our podcast Flick Through! Bartees Strange and Ganser have been particular stand outs for me- both bands have such interesting back stories and make great music!

You can listen to episodes at :

Label Highlight of 2020

This year has been really tough for us- with everything that happened though, I am still really proud of our Distant Together livestream gig series we ran from the very start of Lockdown for 10 weeks. We had bands play from all over the world- it helped us get through those first few months and a lot of people said it helped them too.

As this is our 10th year of Rad Releases, we want to look back on your 10 years- has there been on standout moment/standout record of the past 10 years?

Oooof, this is tough! I think working with bands like Jeff Rosenstock and AJJ have been really important mile stones for us- proving that we do know what we’re doing and bands like that trust us with their releases. Working with Fresh from a baby band for two LPs and a 7″ has been massively rewarding- I love being part of their journey! I love all the little details we get to do- lino prints to go with the Toodles EP, commissioning hemp soaps for a Great Cynics record, doing special creative stuff to coincide with releases is always so fun! Moving to Bristol and opening the shop was a HUGE change to the label, and having people come and work for us. Also our Birthday Alldayer in August 2019 was probably the best event we’ve ever put together- 15 bands we adore, a huge BBQ and a massive karaoke afterparty!

Artist/Band to watch for 2021

Looking forward to seeing what Hamburger do next! We just released an EP by them and it’s amazing. We’re also building plans with Toodles & the Hectic Pity, Don’t Worry, Witching Waves, Soot Sprite, Cosmit and a handful of other bands- it’s looking like it’ll be a good year for music (if not much else).

Label Plans for the New Year

We’re really hoping to sell out of our Season Ticket subscription for the fist time in the seven years we’ve been doing it! This year we’re doing the vinyl one, a digital version and a monthly subscription via Bandcamp! More datails can be found at:

We are in awe of Specialist Subject Records for everything they’ve managed to do this year – hoping we can visit in 2021. Be sure to support this incredible label and their powerful mentalities.

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