So far, Label Me has mostly spotlighted record labels that are still putting out incredible music on a regular basis. This month, though, the focus is a bit of a history lesson. Endearing Records (currently based out of Vancouver, but founded in Winnipeg) has gone relatively quiet on the label side in recent years, as the principals have focused their efforts on an offshoot project, Endearing Publishing. From the mid-90s to the early noughties, though, Endearing was a one-stop shop for a particular brand of melodic indie-pop.
Where to start: Unlike its West Coast contemporaries at Mint Records, Endearing never had a New Pornographers-style runaway success to cement its catalogue. If the label is built on anything, though, it's accessibility, so don't let unfamiliar names throw you off. If you've got a power-pop sweet tooth, Endearing can provide the sugar rush.
The easiest way to dive in is with the label's 2009 trifecta of releases from Julie Doiron, Paper Moon and Brent Randall and Those Magnificent Pinecones. Randall's eclectic pop borrows heavily from the effortless melodicism of '70s-era Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson, and his updating of classic pop tropes is very much in keeping with Endearing's spirit. Paper Moon rose from the ashes of two previous Endearing acts, B'ehl and The Bonaduces, and the blend of the former's twee tunefulness with the latter's power-pop backbone is a winning combination. And while Doiron's often melancholy folk-rock is slightly out of step with the rest of the label's output, it's also a consistent highlight. Her 2009 I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day was maybe better than her Polaris-shortlisted Woke Myself Up, and any of her releases are well worth picking up.
Going deeper: Once you've made it through those, it's time to dig into Endearing's power-pop boot camp. The Parkas honed its hook-laden rock on Now This is Fighting before jumping to Saved By Radio. Novillero fleshed out the two-fisted pop of Duotang into the unstoppable update of mod and Brit-pop on The Brindleford Follies before moving on to Mint Records. Calgary's own Hot Little Rocket released its Danish Documentary on the label, then recruited fellow Endearing artist Aaron Booth — whose Our Last Escape is a folk-pop gem in its own right — to record its followup on the then freshly launched Flemish Eye imprint. In other words, Endearing is nothing if not a breeding ground for pop talent.
Oddly enough, the crown jewel in Endearing's pop catalogue came from a band that was defunct before it even approached the label. Released in October of 2000, The Pets' Love and War is an astoundingly eclectic blend of punk, psychedelia, laptop-pop and unbridled creativity. Hailing from Steinbach, Manitoba, the band only played five shows before splitting up, leaving behind a CD-R that still managed to climb to the top of the Winnipeg college rock charts. Once it saw an official release, the acclaim spread far beyond Manitoba's borders, earning praise from the likes of Uncut and The Guardian, inspiring several members to re-form as The Waking Eyes.
Further listening: Endearing's most ambitious project came in the form of the Intercontinental Pop Exchange series, a seven-part experiment pairing bands from the label's roster with like-minded artists from abroad. Spotlighting far-flung talent from Argentina, France, Finland and beyond, the series serves as a global pop survey — and a handy chance for Endearing to indulge its travel bug.