July 29 street date. Friendship's Merge debut, "Love the Stranger", moves like a country record skipping in just the right spot, leaving its fellow travelers longing for a place they've only visited in their dreams. Guitarist Peter Gill, drummer Michael Cormier-O'Leary, bassist Jon Samuels, and hawkeyed balladeer Dan Wriggins map out the group's particular, breathtaking landscape and invite the listener to share in its glory. "Love the Stranger"'s invitation is all the more wondrous because its characters have clearly been hurt before. Wide awake, vulnerable, and gimmickless, Friendship won't hesitate to confide in us, or even ask for help when the moment calls. The record's images craft a symbolic language of high and low Americana, both evocative and consistently accessible. Spending time with "Love the Stranger" creates a community - one in which the window between the listener and the musicmaker shatters in full, until all that remains are the fragments you decide to pick up together.
Merge Records was started in the summer of 1989, by Laura Ballance & Mac McCaughan, the same summer they formed the band Superchunk in Chapel Hill, NC. The first couple releases were cassettes (remember those?), by WWAX and Bricks, followed by the first Superchunk (then known only as "Chunk") 7" single. The vinyl 7" was the format of choice for the first 3 years of the label, with cash borrowed from friends to finance projects (including singles from Erectus Monotone, Angels of Epistemology, and more Superchunk) and bedrooms serving as Merge HQ until 1992, when the first Merge full-length release, Tossing Seeds by Superchunk, was released on CD, LP, and cassette. With this release Merge also forged a relationship with Touch and Go Records of Chicago, who have done an admirable job manufacturing and distributing the bulk of Merge's full-length releases since then. Since '92 Merge moved from one charming-yet-run-down office to another until 2001, when we finally made the move from Chapel Hill down the road to a fine old building all our own in historic Downtown Durham, NC. In 2004 Merge Records is celebrating its 15th birthday, and while our roster has changed, rotated, permutated and expanded over the last 15 years, the quality we look for in records as fans is still there in the music we put out on Merge. Thanks for listening!