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This year marks the 25th anniversary of Merge Records, the coolest thing to come out of North Carolina besides Fantasia Barrino. (Fun fact, North Carolina has produced the most American Idol winners.) The label is going all out to celebrate their birthday with reissues, a giant music festival and even a 25k road race with probably the coolest race T-shirts I have ever seen. The internet is full of retrospectives about the ground breaking label, but we decided to make up a short Merge 101 list of bands you probably already know but didn’t know were on Merge.
Arcade Fire: Oh Arcade Fire. I always feel challenged when trying to reign in any semblance of comprehensible English when writing or talking about them. Arcade Fire has been with Merge since their debut LP Funeral, and although they may have released their albums on other labels international, they are ride or die by Merge. They are basically the whole reason why I know that Merge exists and I have a sticker on my guitar case. Arcade Fire is Canada’s cool points shining star even as they reach U2 level success (kinda…). And they are the greatest live band the world has to offer right now. So go see them.
F**ked Up: Okay this one doesn’t fully count but they are on this list anyway. F**ked Up has released a lot of material on a lot of different labels and in 2010 they released their Year of the Ox 12″ through Merge along with Matador as part of their Zodiac series. And they are listed on Merge’s site on the Artists page. So I’m keeping them in. You may know their lead singer Damian from watching Much, but he also fronts this amazing band that balances shake your bones music with pure poetry. And they are the greatest live band the world has to offer right now. So go see them. (Awww eff)
Neutral Milk Hotel: Neutral Milk Hotel is one of those mysterious bands legends are made of. To keep it short, the band broke up after a very short run and a relativity successful but hugely influential album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Their lead singer Jeff Mangum slowly started returning to music in performing over the past decade or so. Then last year, the band announced that they would be reuniting for a tour that has briefly swung up to Canada. In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is probably one of the most referenced albums when you ask modern bands for records that shaped their sound. Just listening to it while writing this blog gave me all sorts of goosebumps. And they are the favourite band of Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate. So, you know. That is pretty cool.
She & Him: This band is the music baby of cute as kittens pair M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. If you know even one thing about Zooey, take that one thing and imagine what the musical version of that one thing sounds like. There you have it. The music is sweet and throw back and full of retro quirk. Their Merge bio says they make music for an eternal springtime and whoever wrote that deserves a raise. Never a more accurate description has been written. Even though they did make a Christmas album.
Spoon: Is there a music lover in the world that doesn’t listen to Spoon and at the very least think, that is something I could listen to easily? They are like Paul Rudd. A lot of people love them, like me, and everyone else likes them well enough. Their last album came out in 2007 but now Spoon is releasing a new album later this summer, although not on Merge. But the band grew and flourished under Merge’s watch. And Spoon’s lead singer Britt Daniel (best name ever) liked Merge enough to have his other band Divine Fits on the label too.