If you’re hip to the hot sounds of “it” band Spoon and lick your lips at the thought of a little Lambchop, you should rise up, evolve and grab yourself a copy of the third installment in the Merge Records compilation series Survive and Advance. In the long tradition of the Merge sampler set, this variety bag packs a 14-track punch of (mostly) noteworthy nuggets from the chill-ass folks in Chapel Hill.
The sampler is a time capsule of Merge talent. Some tracks are preciously released, but most are rare, unreleased, or soon-to-be released gems. Of 14 tracks, you have, notably: Lambchop’s Cohen-esque “Heavy Metal Trouble Girl,” a throwback to glam-rock vocals; the Essex Green, in beatitudes nostalgic of the Knack, laying down a spiffy little ditty called “The Late Great Cassiopia” from their 2003 release The Long Goodbye; and Elliott Smith doppelganger Portastatic with “Little Fern,” bound for emo greatness with lyrics like: “You used to need me in every season / Honey, that’s all gone / You used to need me / Now you need a reason / I haven’t got one.”
Spoon’s “You Gotta Feel It” is a raw and stripped-down acoustic session. Matt Suggs’ “Calm Down” is an apology anthem to every girlfriend who’s ever been wrested from sleep at 4 a.m. to catch the final, critical moments of Iron Chef’s cook-off: “Calm down / Honey, please calm down / The night just kind of came on, without warning / Calm down / Baby, please calm down / And we won’t say a thing until the morning.”
Like the rest of the track-packed Survive and Advance series, this is an indie enthusiasts’ best case scenario — a new band, the Rosebuds, cavort with Merge staples Buzzcocks, East River Pipe, and the Ladybug Transistor, and all is relatively good. Variety and ingenuity run on the sparse side, though, as a listen to any Survive and Advance will reveal a similar sound schedule. For a little spice, you can always count on the unpredictable Matt Elliott; his “Brunlette Espagnol,” a stratospheric, synth-house joint, closes out the agenda on a trippy tip.
This collection is worth your $7, even if a sampling like this is, in terms of motion, just a flash in the indie pan. Buy it alone for M. Ward’s handsome and hard to find “Fearless” — you can make out the faint trailing of a siren outside the studio in between all the picking and sliding.