Ah, 4AD: legendary upstart, vital indie label, forward-thinking visionary, advocate for impudent artists, major music-scene influencer and snubber of the single-genre limiter. Since its inception in the U.K. in 1980, the record label has shaped the musical landscape while refusing to conform to specific contours. Numerous acts performing in New York this fall demonstrate the label's breadth and caliber: symphonic art-rockers Efterklang, eerie electro-poppers Purity Ring, arty collabo David Byrne and St. Vincent, Prince-inspired tunesmith Twin Shadow and weirdo-pop artiste Grimes.
RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of concerts in NYC
Like these groups, the rest of 4AD's roster—from the Cocteau Twins and Pixies to Bon Iver and Ariel Pink—is rich in surprises and wild talent. Says label boss Simon Halliday: "Most quality organizations should evolve and reinvent themselves. 4AD currently tries to follow the best music and personalities out there (in our opinion), and hopefully that keeps allowing us to naturally evolve without thinking about it too much."
Here, we traced that evolution, rounding up the label's must-know releases over the years, in chronological order. Did we leave out your favorite 4AD recording? Join the conversation in the comments. And be sure to listen while you browse: Our Spotify playlist features a track from each essential album.