“There have been lots of records we’ve put out that I’ve had no confidence that they would sell,” says Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance at the start of a new documentary about Merge Records. “Most of them.”
While that may be the case, Google Play’s nearly half-hour film hammers the label’s many highs — and occasional lows — over the past 25 years home quite nicely, proving that solid records can actually sell and it’s still possible to run a successful music business in an age where download numbers continue to dip and streaming has quickly become the format du jour for many listeners. Speaking of downloading, Google Play also managed to score quite an exclusive: a sampler featuring five Merge artists (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, Telekinesis, Saint Rich, Hiss Golden Messenger) covering their fellow alums in Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, Wye Oak, Mikal Cronin, and American Music Club. Oh, and Dave Eggers illustrated each track, because he apparently has time to do that sort of thing when he’s not writing books or running McSweeney’s.