I probably would never have thought twice about the role of record labels as curatorial gate keepers if it weren't for Secretly Canadian, which was started by some guys I knew in college: Chris and Ben Swanson. That was back in 1996 or 97. I've been amazed by how much they've put out and the corners where I've found their music. It's incredible that they've gone from basement shows in Bloomington, Indiana to Antony and the Johnson CDs at Barnes and Nobles.
Secretly Canadian tends towards the delicately weird and unpolished; as a sample, I've included an early favorite from Songs: Ohia, a Jason Molina side project which was one of the first bands to record on the label.