Influential Label Showcases TalentOctober 19th, 2012
Merge Records Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 18, 2012
One could argue that no other independent label from the past 20 years has released as many instant classics as Merge Records. After all, they gave the OK for the Magnetic Fields to put out a three-album collection of 69 love songs, they introduced bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire to the world and they gave a rock act by the name of Spoon a second chance. So it’s safe to say that Merge is on a bit of a hot streak that might not be cooling off anytime soon. While any given day of the CMJ Music Marathon is a somewhat frantic race to absorb as much great music as possible, last night’s Merge showcase at Mercury Lounge, spanning almost seven hours and six different acts, was something of a cruel temptation and a great excuse for ruining the following workday by staying out past 2 a.m.
“It’s kind of hard to follow your label boss, though I’m sure he’d hate to be called that,” said Eleanor Friedberger, taking the stage after a set from Superchunk frontman and Merge Records cofounder Mac McCaughan. Friedberger played a solo acoustic set with some “in the works” new material that could come out early next year. She was followed by a searing set from Mount Moriah. “We’re Mount Moriah. We’re from Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and we’re really excited to put some records out on Merge,” said lead singer Heather McEntire. The set sampled songs off their self-titled debut, as well as some new tunes from their upcoming album. The band’s sound is familiar yet unique, a strange combination of all genres Americana (blues, rock, country, soul, gospel).
It makes sense that as of September they’re sharing a label with acts like Lambchop, self-proclaimed “Nashville’s most fucked-up country band.” Between Mount Moriah and another recent Merge signee (and show opener), William Tyler, it will be interesting to see if the label can continue to push the boundaries of country music, bringing this strange new iteration of the genre to music fans usually repulsed by the word country. “We’ve been listening to a lot of the Allman Brothers Band—I don’t know if you could tell,” said McEntire after firing through a particularly bluesy-rock new song. You could tell, but this was a very good thing. If the past is any indicator, 2013 should be a huge year for some or even all of these bands. And if the performances last night are any indicator, it probably will be. —Dan Rickershauser