SCORE! celebrates twenty years of Merge Records. It is a subscription only package, and includes 14 curated compilation CDs, the Merge remix CD, the Merge covers CD, a cover art book, a Scharpling & Wurster CD, a box, and other stuff.

Each compilation features selections hand-picked from the entire Merge catalog by the curator, as well as exclusively commissioned original art work & bonus content created or commissioned by the curator, including music, video & more. All proceeds will benefit charities handpicked by the curators.

HOW AND WHY:

I have a feeling that my choices are so obvious and predictable that some people out there will yawn. My tastes are pretty populist and to those intimately familiar with Merge artists, they will seem boring and obvious. However, I’ve played my compilation quietly over dinners at home sometimes, and guests will often ask when various songs come on, “Who’s that band? I really like that!” I sense these are some of the folks for whom these collections are meant. Well, mine, anyway. I also sense that some who think they are already familiar with Merge and with many of these artists will be surprised too. I know I was. After listening to everything the label put out, I narrowed my choices down and listened to what I had. Wow. Initially I had too much, for starters. In the process of going through the catalogue, I realized that many of the artists had recorded lovely instrumental compositions, so I made an alternate collection of just those. The remaining vocal tunes made a collection I can listen to over and over, as can my dinner guests.

I first met the folks at Merge through Tricia Mesigian, who generously offered to handle merch on my 2001 tour. Trish and I had mutual acquaintances in the band Lambchop, who happened to be on Merge. Trish convinced the band and me to end our tour at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina, where she was renovating an old house and making a bar/lounge that would later become the popular Orange County Social Club. The stage at the Cat’s Cradle was a little small for the touring band—a rhythm section augmented by a string section—so we were dripping with sweat by the end of the show. Trish introduced Mac and some other friends, and I wasn’t sure if they were members of Superchunk or Merge folks or what; turns out, all of the above. After a few years, I began to connect the dots between friends, bands I liked, and this little label.

A few years ago, I became acquainted with the band Arcade Fire, who were doing some of their first New York shows at Irving Plaza (or was it Bowery Ballroom?). I was not the only person captivated by this band, and they quickly became very popular. A while after this, I remember talking with them, as they were being courted by a number of major labels and offers of money from big labels were being dangled in front of them. They decided to stay with Merge, which says something about both the band and the folks at Merge. Having been involved in a small label myself, I know a little bit about how difficult it is to try and be able to put out some records that you know will only sell in small numbers while some others go gold, and to believe that it’s important to be able to do both. It’s a difficult balancing act, and they’ve done it incredibly well for 20 years! It’s not just a business model; it’s the kind of behavior only folks who really love music and all that surrounds it can maintain. This label is an act of faith and love that (I think) also pays some bills.

—DB

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