Merge 25 is upon us.

Merge 25 is upon us.

William Tyler, Lost Colony EP

In a January article in America Songwriter, Sean Maloney writes “With one foot in folk tradition and one in the world of experimental music and a lifetime spent steeping in Nashville’s music community, Tyler manages the liminal act of making art music for folks that hang out at rock clubs.”

Willy T is beloved by all who know him, not least the Merge family, where we have known him for years as a member of Lambchop and - since the release of 2012’s Impossible Truth (beautifully designed by his friend Sam Smith) - as a solo artist on the label. 

A seasoned collaborator, he wanted to incorporate one of more of his sister Elise’s photographs into the album artwork. The cover is a crop of one of her images. I then extracted elements of vernacular signage from many more of her images, collaging them on top to reflect more of their shared landscape than a single image could convey. (For an album with no lyrics, there are a lot of words on the cover!) For the type, sign letters were an obvious choice.

It’s impossible for me not to think of Sebadoh’s Harmacy with the photo on the back—perhaps a reference bringing us back to the fact that William’s utterly transcendent, instrumental music fits perfectly on the shelves of “folks that hang out at rock clubs.” But don’t take it from me. One of the newest members of the Merge family - Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor - describes William’s magic more eloquently than I ever could right here.

Twitter is fizzing with happy subscribers receiving their first instalment of Or Thousands of Prizes today. Joy to the peeps.

Twitter is fizzing with happy subscribers receiving their first instalment of Or Thousands of Prizes today. Joy to the peeps.

Mikal Cronin, MCII

Holy year-end list shining star! (Look around.) Mikal Cronin’s debut delivered a thing that the people craved this year. When I first talked with him about the packaging, it was just before Christmas and we were scheming about how to do something dramatic with a piano. We emailed images of miniature pianos back and forth, eventually not finding a satisfying way to execute our plans without great bodily risk and an unattainable budget. Mikal was heading out on a few more tour dates and - as I recall - the front and back cover photos were captured then.

I love that such an apparently simple package provides several different points of connection with the artist: the exterior photos deliver west coast bliss and let you in not only to life on the road, but also the playfulness Mikal shares with his fellow travellers; the interior shot offers an intimate vignette into the recording of the songs themselves; and Mikal’s lettering on the front personalizes the whole thing as a gift from him to the listener.

My role was to listen to him, absorb his vibe, and turn all this wonderful material he delivered into a package that conveyed the fun-serious-psychedelic trifecta that this awesome record embodies.

Five Spanish Songs, a new EP from Destroyer. This the latest in a series of Destroyer projects featuring the photography of band member Ted Bois. The smoke in the background is from a forest fire burning in the distance, as the band spent a day stranded in a small town in Catalonia.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Destroyer fans are gonna freak out over these songs.

Merge Records is turning twenty-five next year and to kick off the celebration, the label is offering a subscription-based box set. Subscribers will receive twelve 7-inches on colored vinyl featuring exclusive, newly released tracks from 25 Merge artists including Superchunk, Mikal Cronin, Mount Moriah, The Mountain Goats, The Clientele, Destroyer, King Khan & the Shrines, Lambchop, and more. Details here.
Teaser image made with leftover birthday party favors from the dollar store. THOUSANDS of them.

Merge Records is turning twenty-five next year and to kick off the celebration, the label is offering a subscription-based box set. Subscribers will receive twelve 7-inches on colored vinyl featuring exclusive, newly released tracks from 25 Merge artists including Superchunk, Mikal Cronin, Mount Moriah, The Mountain Goats, The Clientele, Destroyer, King Khan & the Shrines, Lambchop, and more. Details here.

Teaser image made with leftover birthday party favors from the dollar store. THOUSANDS of them.

David Kilgour & The Heavy 8’s, Christopher Columbus

The design of an album is founded on an enormous amount of trust between the artist and designer. The album cover will become the visual manifestation of a body of songs that are often years in the making and deeply personal. The package and cover image serve as the messenger by which the album is presented to the world and neither artist nor designer takes that significance lightly. The process is often fun and lively, but there is a certain weight in proportion to the amount of care and work that goes into making an album.

If an album is an impeccably-crafted, carefully-paced, no-detail-left-unconsidered dinner, a 7-inch is a Jolly Rancher winged out to the crowd along the parade route. With this diminished investment, there is a lightness to the design conversation that affords more risk-taking, humor, and specificity (after all, it is representing just two songs that may not even be connected to one another thematically.)

About the A-side for this 7-inch, David Kilgour wrote,

I started writing this in my head after being stuck in Barcelona a couple of years back at the end of a Clean tour of Europe (we had just played Primavera). My flight out was delayed by a day so I spent most of the day hanging around the Rambla de Santa Monica, where a statue of Christopher Columbus stands. It got me thinking about how his discovery of America led the world to where we are now. Where are we now? I like to think we are now  looking at the beginning of the end of the corporate way of capitalist life …  

That is Chris himself on the cover, adapted from an old lithograph that DK sent as a starting point. The result is a psychedelic confection (the B-side is a song originally recorded by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in 1967) and a bit of an homage to one of my favorite childhood books.

Superchunk, I Hate Music

Mac and I have made another thing. It’s weird and fun and quintessentially Superchunk. The cover photo is by Phil Morrison and you can flip around the inner sleeve to complete it. The deluxe LP also contains a shiny, silver stencil and a 7-inch.
Mac made some stencils for the Void / Faith single a few months back and got on a bit of a stencilling kick, finding that the excess spray left behind was more interesting than the stencils themselves. These saturated textures reveal the joyful element of the songs within, backing the sober depth of darker themes—and Phil’s photo. 
The whole thing is very un-precious and very analog. We sat at Mac’s dining room table one afternoon (Really, is there a better surface for creative activity than the dining table?) with heaps of his stencil artifacts and crumpled, black snowflakes and we just moved things around until it made sense.
Oh. And the music? Turn it up!

Mac and I have made another thing. It’s weird and fun and quintessentially Superchunk. The cover photo is by Phil Morrison and you can flip around the inner sleeve to complete it. The deluxe LP also contains a shiny, silver stencil and a 7-inch.

Mac made some stencils for the Void / Faith single a few months back and got on a bit of a stencilling kick, finding that the excess spray left behind was more interesting than the stencils themselves. These saturated textures reveal the joyful element of the songs within, backing the sober depth of darker themes—and Phil’s photo. 

The whole thing is very un-precious and very analog. We sat at Mac’s dining room table one afternoon (Really, is there a better surface for creative activity than the dining table?) with heaps of his stencil artifacts and crumpled, black snowflakes and we just moved things around until it made sense.

Oh. And the music? Turn it up!

Poster diptych bonus for Superchunk pre-orders. Photos by Phil Morrison.

Poster diptych bonus for Superchunk pre-orders. Photos by Phil Morrison.

Merge Summer Sampler, loaded with goodness from Mikal Cronin, Superchunk, Eleanor Friedberger, Telekinesis, William Tyler, David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, Amor de Días, The Love Language, She & Him, Shout Out Louds, Future Bible Heroes, The Mountain Goats, Mount Moriah, King Khan & The Shrines, and Radar Brothers. Free download.

Merge Summer Sampler, loaded with goodness from Mikal Cronin, Superchunk, Eleanor Friedberger, Telekinesis, William Tyler, David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, Amor de Días, The Love Language, She & Him, Shout Out Louds, Future Bible Heroes, The Mountain Goats, Mount Moriah, King Khan & The Shrines, and Radar Brothers. Free download.

Eleanor Friedberger’s fantastic Personal Record is out June 4. The design features gorgeous, sun-drenched photography by Moses Berkson, with a 12” x 24” fold-out poster in the LP package. There are a lot of beautiful people on Merge, but Eleanor is one of the few who doesn’t run for the hills when a camera comes out. It’s a gift to a designer (and a fan) so it is no surprise we have leveraged photography for both of her records. If you have seen her live, you know that she is the whole package: a gifted songwriter, confident and generous in her performance, while being entirely human, and funny. All of this is transmitted on Personal Record. Pre-order it now. And go see her on tour this summer!
If you need another nudge, check out this irresistible video for “Stare at the Sun” directed by Scott Jacobson.
(click the image to make it big and glorious.)

Eleanor Friedberger’s fantastic Personal Record is out June 4. The design features gorgeous, sun-drenched photography by Moses Berkson, with a 12” x 24” fold-out poster in the LP package. There are a lot of beautiful people on Merge, but Eleanor is one of the few who doesn’t run for the hills when a camera comes out. It’s a gift to a designer (and a fan) so it is no surprise we have leveraged photography for both of her records. If you have seen her live, you know that she is the whole package: a gifted songwriter, confident and generous in her performance, while being entirely human, and funny. All of this is transmitted on Personal RecordPre-order it now. And go see her on tour this summer!


If you need another nudge, check out this irresistible video for “Stare at the Sun” directed by Scott Jacobson.

(click the image to make it big and glorious.)

She & Him billboard, Los Angeles. Album art by the fabulous Hum Creative. Photo of Matt and Zooey by Autumn de Wilde.

She & Him billboard, Los Angeles. Album art by the fabulous Hum Creative. Photo of Matt and Zooey by Autumn de Wilde.

Merge Records SXSW Showcase for 2013. Sweet lineup. Clickety-click to see big.

Merge Records SXSW Showcase for 2013. Sweet lineup. Clickety-click to see big.

Flexi discs came free with pre-orders of the Telekinesis LP.

Flexi discs came free with pre-orders of the Telekinesis LP.