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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1996 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 1, 1996 | Jagjaguwar

An endearing, likeable record of avant-garde pop music is a fitting debut for the Jagjaguwar label, considering where the label ended up going from there, what with a history of releasing records from similar personalities such as Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston, and the like. While many might dismiss the Curious Digit as just "silly noise" (or some equally parental phrase of annoyance), the Virginia-based act actually does a good job of making some enjoyable, albeit unique, pop music. Utilizing distorted guitars, funky keyboards, clarinet, and other odds and ends, the ten songs on Bombay Aloo never seem to drag, and they only become more fun with each passing listen. Amazingly, the melodies start to become more noticeable the more one listens, and the band's ability to utilize them subtly is quite noteworthy. Occasionally, the band gets going in their rhythm (whether it be slow and dirge-like, or faster and upbeat) and it may feel as though they're about ready to fall apart -- yet they never do. No doubt, they planned it like that all along. ~ Kurt Morris
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 1, 1996 | Jagjaguwar

The songs on the Curious Digit's Hessian Hills are dark and brooding. The follow-up to Bombay Aloo raised eyebrows in the experimental indie rock scene with the band's energized variation of epic and unpredictable rock. The Charlottesville, VA, quartet created more promising and eerily subtle music on this disc, their second full-length release. Most of the band's songs were penned by Adam Busch, later of Manishevitz. Busch's vocals are reminiscent of Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. His voice has the rare ability to translate powerful emotions in a relaxed and mellow style. Parker Paul Wilkinson added some unforgettable keyboard sequences to the disc. The songs are all different, each a roller coaster of emotions with a folky or rock backdrop. "Parachute" is more downbeat than most of the songs, all of which are churning and emotional. "Erase" is hypnotic, while "Last Season" starts off somber and transforms into an uplifting epic and "Within a Jar" is a precise and sly folk classic. The disc ends with "Covet These," a relaxed yet lively album-closer. Released in 1997, the album was recorded by Geoff Turner at WGNS Studio and by Ian Jones at Evil Genius Studios. The Curious Digit disbanded soon after the album's release on Jagjaguwar Records. ~ Stephen Cramer
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 1, 1996 | Jagjaguwar

Drunk's first album, a derby spiritual, is a beautiful collection of sparse, mournful songs that conjure up a sense of backwoods despair and rural hopefulness. Using a variety of instruments, including guitars, mandolins, violins, accordions, banjos, organs, and cellos, Drunk produces a sound not unlike Palace, especially in the sense of the traditional Appalachian approach of that band. P.J. Alverson, sounding like an infinitely sad Tom Petty, sings in a high-lonesome voice of resignation and wonder, while the reeling instrumentation functions as a perfect complement to his vocal style. On songs such as "Hand on Deck" and "Coming Home," with its dark, loping accordion line, the morose qualities of Drunk come to the forefront, while on the upbeat "Germany Skies" and "Gideon's Trumpet," the band demonstrates its ability to craft songs that approximate pop. On many of the songs, violins and organs provide a solid foundation for the other instruments, and as a result many of the tracks come across as impressively textured and complex. The beauty of a derby spiritual, however, lies in its lean, simple approach; there is never a feeling of overproduction or overcrowding, and this allows the sentiments of the songs, often incredibly touching (and often hilarious, as in the case of the final, untitled track), to shine through all the brighter. This is a subtle, many-layered album, one for those who appreciate honesty and simple beauty in their music. ~ Brandon Gentry
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 1, 1997 | Jagjaguwar

All My Skies are Blue takes the minimal, low-key solo-guitar and vocals genre into some pretty extreme territory -- most of the album's tracks have a melancholy laziness and incredible simplicity to them that are pretty much unique to White. Others, however, veer onto different ground, foregrounding distorted guitar over distant vocal yelping. The more melodic end of White's work doesn't quite live up to the work of the genre's best practicioners (Cat Power and, on the sunnier side, Julie Doiron) -- the more frantic tracks "Shit," despite being rather interesting, can be almost bothersome in that they ruin the languid purity of the tracks surrounding them. This leaves All My Skies are Blue in pretty shaky territory -- it's occasionally great, but occasionally rather dull. ~ Nitsuh Abebe
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 1, 1997 | Jagjaguwar

Although a Virginia based emo band, Stigma Rock Unit is not a part of the formidable Sleepytime Trio-Engine Down family. The group does a solid job of capturing the sound, all the way down to Jeremy Koren's voice. The record does suffer from too many guitar solos and too much psychadelic noodling. "Texas Hollow Road" is almost a perfect pop single, but the endless soloing adds three minutes too many (although it does add the only way to tell the song apart from the Pavement anthem "Summer Babe"). The nods to rock history are a nice touch: the album's first cut is entitled "Les Paul vs. Leo Fender," showing they are smarter than the average indie band. Unfortunately there is not enough to differentiate them from other likeminded bands with the exception of the heavy guitar emphasis, which is also the album's greatest fault. For fans of the genre, this will be a nice addition to their library, but for people unsure about emo, this will only confirm their worst fears. ~ Yancey Strickler
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 1, 1998 | Jagjaguwar

It would be easy to lump the self-titled debut by Charlottesville, VA.'s South in with the gaggle of instrumental albums flooding the indie rock landscape these days. The catch is that the record is far from instrumental, making maximum use of guitarist Patrick Phelan's opaque vocals as a main ingredient of a gentle, intriguing overall sound. Although South is reminiscent of more recognizable instrumental groups, the band uses the genre's feel merely as launching point instead of an overarching style guide. It shares with groups like Ativin and Windsor For The Derby a love of keyboard-enhanced atmospheres and intertwining guitar repetition, but its use of dulcimer and vibes recalls both fellow Virginians Labradford and Tortoise. Phelan's vocals, although low in the mix, lend the songs the kind of personal feel often lacking in instrumental music. South has a very satisfying range of moods and textures, from the extremely minimalistic and ambient "Close Value" to the urgent, emotional "Smoke" and "Walk." "Smoke" blends looped and live guitars around a melodic bassline, building toward a louder vocal passage that hints at the understated singing of Seam's Sooyoung Park. The magnificent "Walk" meanders through low-key time changes, arriving at a piano-driven midsection and working through a number of other cleverly composed sections. South is thinking music of the highest order, ideal for unearthing a memory or two from the mental back catalog. ~ Jonathan Cohen
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 1, 1998 | Jagjaguwar

The third album from Richmond, VA'a Drunk offers a fully realized vision of their signature sound; the record's frequently brilliant songwriting is based around minimally clean, chimy electric guitars, with a rustic Appalachian feel that recalls (but goes much further than) the work of Palace or even Cat Power. The results are heartbreakingly beautiful -- the drawling, antique songs on the album would probably sound gorgeous even in the worst of settings, and keen arrangements of accordions, clarinets, and violins adorn and highlight them in the best of ways. True to the band's name and general goals, To Corner Wounds is as wistful, pensive, and melancholy as one could wish -- it's the sort of rural lament that reaches out to listeners on a level far more instinctual and emotional than modern music usually strives for, and it's hard to imagine that this work wouldn't touch just about any audience. ~ Nitsuh Abebe
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 1, 1999 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 15, 1999 | Jagjaguwar

Drunk's minimalist and intricate style of indie rock continued on their 1999 effort, Raised Toward. The Richmond, VA, six-piece band stands out on the indie rock map, utilizing slide guitar, accordion, violin, pennywhistle, and harmonica in their music. The disc starts off with the convoluted "Miscellany," which gives way to the simpler "Scaffold." Rick Alverson's offbeat vocals are a main component throughout. The band gets downright folky on "Equal Parts Both," which is reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock. The music is reserved from beginning to end. On track eight, they take a stab at cover songs, offering up their rendition of Leonard Cohen's "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong." They pull it off well, making the song their own. Guitarist Via Nuon takes center stage on "All Souls Day," writing the song and appearing on vocals for the only track on the disc. The song acts as a solid transition as the album nears an end. The music is forever subtle, especially on the disc's final track, "A Tether's Length." J.T. Yost performs on a variety of instruments on the disc, including piano, accordion, Hammond, and harmonica. Bill Russell and Russell Cook fill out the rhythm section, on bass guitar and drums respectively. Nathan Boor contributes on guitar and keyboards. The slowcore sound on the disc is distinctly orchestral, creating a mood of deep deliberation. The band is easily comparable to bands like Codeine and Low, but they are able to make the sound their own. Raised Toward was recorded at Sound of Music Studios in Richmond and released on Jagjaguwar Records in late 1998. ~ Stephen Cramer
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 19, 1999 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 19, 1999 | Jagjaguwar

Monroe Mustang's second album, The Elephant Sound, is a major triumph for this young, four-tracking quintet from Austin, TX. The sweet, succulent songs of The Elephant Sound are laced with brilliant guitar pop and subtly dizzying psychedelia. The album is highlighted by the following songs, each of which has a completely distinct sound: "Cat/Moth," "Veronica," and "Elephant Sound 424." To categorize or brand Monroe Mustang would result in nothing but an elliptical string of babble. This is a subjective band who can't be mapped to any primary influences. No matter who you listen to -- Beatles, Rolling Stones, Apples in Stereo, Sebadoh, Moles, Jeff Tweedy -- it doesn't matter, because Monroe Mustang, and The Elephant Sound in particular, will emulate all of your favorite artists in one way or another. ~ Gregg Rounds
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

Of all the poets who came of age during the World War II era, Robert Creeley is one of the most enduring and restless, continually honing his vision, seeking the doorway for language to let itself out, to shower and cover listeners and readers with its beauty and truth, no matter how small and intimate it is -- or how large and terrible. Creeley has made other recordings, one in collaboration with Steve Lacy called Futurities, and another with a group of musicians headed by Steve Swallow and David Torn entitled Have We Told You All We'd Thou. But this recording is just the poet's voice and his newest poems, which in the liner notes he confesses to loving, the same as children. He reads in a slightly wavering, tender voice, like the 75-year-old man he is, his words coming out straighter than straight, yet looping like music around the listener, touching upon the air as something sacred, something to be pondered, wondered at, and ultimately to be taken in as memory, moral, allegory, and simple truth. Many of these poems rhyme according to schemata afforded the poet's own voice, as in "En Famille": "...You won't get far by yourself/It's dark out there/There's a long way to go/The dog knows/It's him that loves us most/Or seems to, in dark nights of the soul/Keep a tight hold/Steady, we're not lost/Despite the sad vagaries, anchored in love, placed in the circle/Young and old, a round--/Love's fact of this bond/One day one will look back/And think of them--/Where they were, now gone--/Remember it all...."Creeley's meditations in these poems are on the natural world, the family, impermanence, memory itself, and the wonder of being alive in each moment. Not with a giddy optimism, or a false gratitude, but in knowing, one word at a time, that as long as there is breath, he will say it, however it has to be said. This is a reading that can be heard many times, hundreds even, so subtle is the grace and mystery in this work. It is another achievement in a life of them, but it is presented to listeners in a manner in which it comes to them, rolling through the speakers like a slow stream of water through the rock, offering rest, refreshment, and pause. ~ Thom Jurek
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

If this disc by Drunk doesn't squeeze your tube of toothpaste in a major way, then you need a trip to the dentist. This wonderful band that just keeps getting better seems to have discovered the netherland between post-rock and Americana. It's a land all the group's own, filled with delicate and unpretentious instrumentation. A seemingly standard-issue lineup of guitar, bass, and drums is bolstered by musical saw, accordion, vibraphone, among other things. Rick Alverson delivers his bleak lyrics like a Prozac-deprived Tom Petty. TABLESIDE MANNERS is a soundtrack for sorrow, whispered into your ear on a long gray winter afternoon.
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 24, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

A simple concept that's rarely practiced in the indie-rock province: one man alone with his piano writing simple pop songs that quirk along to playful lyrics. Without any backing musicians, fancy studio tricks, or overdubs, Parker Paul fits in his own class of lighthearted musical innocents, single-handedly recording Lemon-Lime Room live in the studio. Hints of jazz are lightly present throughout the album, as are the influences of Randy Newman and early Tom Waits. But all in all, Parker Paul provides pure piano pop, charmingly singing in his low, clear pitch, "You had a friend to sit within the tent and tell you what the dirty words meant." ~ Mike DaRonco
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

Sarah White's got that "dark side of Appalachia" thing goin' on. She's spent most of her life around the Blue Ridge Mountains, but don't go calling this release "Alt-Country." While traditional Americana informs White's music, she explores many different directions. Check out the ominous slow-core of "Got You Back." Then there's songs like the flat-out beautiful "Poker Night," a lush tapestry of finger-picked guitar that would do Ralph Towner proud. BLUEBIRD is a humble and unassuming disc, yet it is also hauntingly enticing.
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

Gorgeous and delicate, this solo recording by Patrick Phelan invites you into a world of quiet introspection; you'll be well rewarded for your attention. Much like Phelan's other bands, South and Drunk, much care is given to instrumental arrangement, and, also like those two other bands, the result is absolutely beautiful. Acoustic guitars, vibraphone, touches of violin and cornet, are all wonderfully orchestrated and provide the perfect setting for Phelan's breathy and gentle voice. The music is so delicately arranged in fact, that at times it seems in danger of evaporating; but while these songs are sparsely textured, they're also substantial. THE SONGS OF PATRICK PHELAN is both intimate and lovely.
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 24, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

Sapphie consists of three extended compositions dedicated to the memory of a pet Alsatian (for whom the record is named); using only a nylon-stringed guitar and his amazing vocals, Youngs crafts three gorgeous, desolate and heartbreaking ballads -- throughout almost 40 minutes, the record never ceases to be stunningly beautiful, making an incredibly strong entry into the long line of Scottish singer/songwriters to compose in this intimate, strongly melodic style. Sapphie is, in most respects, the most pop-oriented and traditionally beautiful piece in Youngs' catalog, and should appeal across all genre distinctions as one of the most unceasingly lovely and unflinchingly intimate recordings in a long, long while. ~ Nitsuh Abebe
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 14, 2000 | Jagjaguwar

Fat Bobby, Kid Millions, Hanoi Jane, and PCRZ -- collectively known as Oneida -- mix a healthy dose of '60s soul, and even Can-style krautrock, into their raucous, garage riffing on their Steel Rod EP, which marks the band's shift to the Jagjaguwar label. After an engaging five-song primer (including a cover of Creedence Clearwater Rivival's "Sinister Purpose"), Oneida show what they are really about with a nearly 15-minute-long hidden track: an organ and fuzzed-out guitar-driven freak out. ~ Jason Nickey
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2000 | Jagjaguwar