As legendary indie labels Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar prepare to celebrate their joint 25th anniversary, we asked our friend and VP of A&R for the Secretly Group Jon Coombs to pick some of his favourite tracks spanning two and a half decades of extraordinary music.
"Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar - two independent record labels based in the university town of Bloomington, Indiana in the American heartland - are turning 25 years old this year. As of today, I’ve been on the team for 13 years - just over half of the label’s history to date. We’ve sprouted many branches over our first quarter century - a distribution company, a music publisher, a vinyl pressing plant, offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Paris, and Berlin, as well as a third sister label in Dead Oceans - since those early days in the muggy, midwestern summer of 1996.
"Out of the gate, with our very first releases - “Glory Hole” by June Panic (SC001) and The Curious Digit’s “Bombay Aloo” (JAG001) - we’ve never felt beholden to one particular sound, genre, scene, or medium. Depending on the day and who you ask, you’ll get a different answer as to what drives us to work with the songwriters, poets, visual artists, and film makers we’re lucky enough to call collaborators. The fact of the matter is that there is no golden thread other than wanting to surround ourselves with timeless voices. We dress it up sometimes when talking about it but at the heart of it all it’s about working with artists who are making songs about our collective experiences, songs that will hopefully be around a lot longer than any of us. I’m thinking about when David Berman once wrote that JAG and, by extension, Secretly, was “a tree.” At the time it was a beautiful and succinct tribute to the longevity of the labels but as time has moved on, I think it’s an apt analogy for how a song can burrow into you and grow over the years.
"In the 800+ LPs, EPs, and singles since those first albums, we’ve been lucky enough to partner with the likes of Angel Olsen, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, The War On Drugs, ANOHNI, Josiah Wise of serpentwithfeet, Yoko Ono, Jamila Woods, Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., the photographer and composer William Eggleston, Black Mountain, Sharon Van Etten, the visual artist and musician Lonnie Holley, Faye Webster, Moses Sumney, Helen Ballentine of Skullcrusher, Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich of Whitney, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Jens Lekman, Porridge Radio, Women, the poets Ross Gay and Robert Creely, Preoccupations, Kaya Wilkins of Okay Kaya, Dinosaur Jr., Damien Jurado, the comedians Tig Notaro and Aparna Nancherla, and the late, great Richard Swift.
"So! The playlist. It’s a solid shot at summing up some of the highlights over the last 25 years while not losing sight of what’s ahead. Some songs are well-worn, and others are fresh off the rack. If the names are familiar, hopefully the songs aren’t!"
-- Jon Coombs, 2021