It’s hard to believe that Merge Records has been around for twenty years. In 1989, the imprint was started by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan to release the band’s recordings and assorted side projects. Merge has since grown into one of the most successful indie concerns around.To celebrate twenty years in the record business, they’ve released Score, a compilation of songs by Merge artists covered by Non-Merge artists. A host of prominent participants include the Shins, Broken Social Scene, Death Cab for Cutie, and the New Pornographers. Proceeds benefit fourteen charities, chosen by the collection’s curators.
The comp is cause for philanthropists to rejoice; music fans too! St. Vincent joins forces with the National on an affecting rendition of Crooked Fingers’ “Sleep all Summer.” Apples in Stereo supply a peppy version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 3.” Barbara Manning provides an ardent, rousing take of Portastatic’s “Through with People.” Magnetic Fields’ “Yeah! Oh Yeah!” receives a suitably spare bedroom pop reading, an eloquently lyrical duet from Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman. Meanwhile, Death Cab for Cutie works a bit against type, trading their often ethereal arranging aesthetic for a bit more grit and darker hues on Superchunk’s “Kicked In.” Overall, an impeccably selected collection of cover songs, featuring a variety of (frequently interesting)approaches: what’s not to like?
Save a Carousel
Some of my happiest moments as a child were on the old carousel at Nunley’s Arcade on Long Island: riding the horses around the loop; gazing with a mixture of excitement, awe, and a bit of fear at the carved lions and tigers. A close second was the tire swing:
I hope some readers will consider voting to help restore the Paragon Carousel, favorite haunt of Merge artists Neutral Milk Hotel! Details from the press release are below.
The Paragon Carousel is a beautiful machine that has been my dear neighbor for many moons. Now 81 years old, it is in need of a little love and attention in order for it to survive.
It is my sincere wish for the Paragon Carousel to be a part of the magic of long seaside summer afternoons for many years to come. But it might not get to. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the great whirling contraptions of mechanical music and light are not as profitable to operate as other things, and carousels are worth much more taken apart and sold in pieces to museums, where one must pay to look at them behind glass, rather than having them simply existing in the world that we now all share.
I spoke with Jeff and Scott and Jeremy about this and they agreed that I should, on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel, make an appeal to the good people who might have enjoyed the music made over the years, because we think you’d understand especially, and want to help.
We humbly ask you to vote!
The Paragon Carousel is competing with 24 other historic Massachussettes buildings for a grant of $100,000. The historic site with the most votes wins, and anyone anywhere can vote. We would love it if by our collective effort we could ensure the continuation of this grand place. It only takes a moment and you can do so here
You are allowed to vote once a day until May 17th . Your vote means a great deal to all of us at Elephant Six. Places like this are so special. They deserve to exist in the same world that we do. So we can visit them with our bodies, not just our memories and dreams.
We’d like to thank you for your help and for spreading the word.
~Julian Koster with Jeff Mangum on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel