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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Merge Records Turns 20 This Year!

Happy B-day Merge, I hope you'll be around for another twenty! In celebration of this momentous occasion, Merge is releasing a series of compilations this year via their website and they've also decided to have a little contest. Anyone can submit their own 20 song compilation of Merge artists, and if your comp gets picked (at random) you win some cool stuff. Details here: Make Your Own Score! I decided to make, but not submit, my comp and post it here. So here is my Score 20:

01. Spoon, "Sister Jack" (Piano Demo) from the bonus disc of 2005's Gimme Fiction. Personally, I think this version slays the album version by a mile. (1:44)

02. Camera Obscura, "Happy New Year" from Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi, 2002. It's hard not to love these Scottish popsters. (4:03)

03. Neutral Milk Hotel, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" from the album of the same name, 1998. Arguably the most lauded album in the entire Merge catalog. Jeff Mangum has never issued a follow up, and thus the cult of NMH (for better or worse) was born. (3:22)

04. Portastatic (featuring Georgia and Ira of Yo La Tengo), "St. Elmo's Fire" by from the Scrapbook EP, 1995. A fantastic cover of Brian Eno's gem, by one of the founders of Merge, Mac McCaughan. (3:33)

05. Butterglory, "Carmen Cross" from Rat Tat Tat, 1997. Terrible band name, I agree, but a great little band nonetheless. They started out as Pavement copyists, albeit with a little more pop sensibility, but by this, their final album, they had really found their own voice. (3:46)

06. The Rosebuds, "You Better Get Ready" from The Rosebuds Unwind EP, 2005. I never really know what to expect from the Rosebuds, from disco influenced dance-athons to mid-tempo ballads to flat out rockers-- this one falls in the last camp--but they are always interesting. (2:07)

07. Caribou, "Hello Hammerheads" from The Milk of Human Kindness, 2005. This was the first album I heard by the artist formerly known as Manitoba. I was hooked by this sparingly, beautiful tune. (2:46)

08. Lambchop, "It's Not Alright" from What Another Man Spills, 1998. Another cover, this time Kurt Wagner tackles Dump (Yo La Tengo's James McNew's side project). (3:26)

09. Conor Oberst, "Sausalito" from Conor Oberst, 2008. Picking up where Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning left off, Oberst convincingly puts out a country record. (3:10)

10. The 6ths (feat. Lou Barlow), "In the City in the Rain" from Wasps' Nest, 1995. Stephin Merritt is one of the most celebrated of Merge's alumni, here I chose the Lou Barlow sung gem from one of his various side projects. (3:43)

11. Teenage Fanclub, "It's All in My Mind" from Man-Made, 2005. From their first, and so far only, release on Merge. Come back guys! (3:45)

12. Polvo, "Vibracobra" from Cor-Crane Secret, 1992. This band were tagged, maybe a little unfairly, as "math rock". I never really understood that genre, but I always loved Polvo. (4:47)

13. Crooked Fingers, "New Drink for the Old Drunk" from Crooked Fingers, 2000. After the Archers of Loaf dissolved in 1998, Eric Bachmann put out a couple of interesting solo records as Barry Black. Nothing on those records prepared me for the brilliance of his next project, Crooked Fingers. This is from their debut. (3:53)

14. Versus, "You'll Be Sorry" from Hurrah, 2000. By the time I bought this, my first, Versus record, they had been putting out albums for six years. This was their first for Merge and sadly their swan song-- still one of my favorite albums of the decade. (4:40)

15. Richard Buckner, "Town" from Meadow, 2006. Apparently, Merge is in the process of doing some Richard Buckner reissues due out later this year. Hopefully that means a new album soon. (4:09)

16. The Ladybug Transistor, "The Places You'll Call Home" from The Ladybug Transistor, 2003. Sasha sings on this lovely little Ladybug Transistor track. (4:04)

17. The Beatnik Filmstars, "Wrong" from In Hospitalable, 1997. The British answer to the American lo-fi scene of the early/mid 90's. (2:38)

18. The Essex Green, "Don't Know Why (You Stay)" from Cannibal Sea, 2006. One of my favorite psychedelic, indie-pop bands of the current decade-- though I'm not sure what they're up to these days as this was their last release. (3:27)

19. M. Ward, "Outta My Head" from Transfiguration of Vincent, 2003. I'll admit, I really didn't like this record when I first heard it back in '03. I listened to it again not too long ago (mainly because I liked the She & Him record so much), and it absolutely floored me. I don't know what I was thinking the first time around. His new one comes out next Tuesday (Feb. 17th)! (2:52)

20. Superchunk, "Slack Motherfucker" from Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91), 1992. How else could I have possibly ended this tribute? (2:54)

Total Time: 1:09:39

Download it here: Score 20 - A Merge Records Tribute