Three Grammy-Eligible Merge Albums Better Than Arcade Fire's The Suburbs

Sunday night's 53rd annual Grammy Awards was a bloated, three-plus hour

show that suddenly became all about those Texans-turned-Canadians who

let loose some X-Games rejects during their live performance at the end.

Yesterday, there were more think pieces about the Arcade Fire's Album of the Year upset (including this one featuring my own unwitting contributions) than there are people who know who the heck Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding is -- but this is not be one of them.

Now it's true (and comforting) that Rosie O'Donnell isn't current on the Arcade Fire, and some Tumblr pranksters are having fun with the band's non-ubiquity too, but let's delve even deeper into what is now one of the most-heralded albums released on an independent record label. (At this point, is it even bigger than this forgotten gem that earned a lofty 9.7 from Pitchfork back in 2004?) It's a great achievement for Merge Records, and The Suburbs was definitely a better record than Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, and the rest of the Album of the Year competitors -- I've heard them all. But was it even the best release from Merge from the eligibility period? 

Some folks aside from the Academy of Arts & Sciences certainly feel that way. Judging by my own listening habits between September 1, 2009, and September 30, 2010 -- AKA the eligibility period for the 2011 Grammy Awards -- I would proffer that the following three Merge Records releases provided more listening enjoyment than The Suburbs for me. Admittedly "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" is a jam, though.

Polvo's In Prism (September 8, 2009)

Just making the cut by one week! It's unknown if Merge execs timed this for a huge Grammy Awards roll-out (and a release date battle with Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3, which won three awards Sunday) for the first album in 12 years from Ash Bowie's math-rock stalwarts. Certainly bristling noodlefests "Beggars Bowl" and "Right the Relation" suggest that the guys were no worse for wear after the long break.

The Love Language's Libraries (July 13, 2010)

Stuart McLamb's brainchild has apparently seen multiple lineup house-cleanings due to his drinking and emotional fits. No matter when it comes to harmony-drenched, pop-rock kernels like these! By McLamb's own admission, he's no sailor, he just wants to rock the boat in the infectious "Heart to Tell." Now perhaps there'd be no strobing for a live Love Language spot on the Grammys, but in a year that hosted the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, this is full-on appropriate.

Spoon's Transference (January 19, 2010)

Even though Telephono and A Series of Sneaks both have their pleasures, this band's Grammys snubs began in earnest with 2001's masterful Girls Can Tell -- just try to evade "Everything Hits at Once" -- and continue up through the present. According to data compiled recently by Metacritic, Spoon is the most critically heralded band of the 2000s -- beating out Radiohead, the White Stripes, and Bob Dylan. We come to Transference, which is actually one of the finest albums of an illustrious career of turning Prince's charismatics and a range of other R&B perversions into indie rock. It's raw, clever, and the perfect vehicle for Britt Daniel's scruffy voice. And, listen good sales-obsessed Grammy voters, it sold 53,000 copies its opening week to place No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

According to Wikipedia,

the albums Merge put out in that one-year span also included the second

She & Him record, the welcome return of Versus, another Wye Oak

gem, a Tracey Thorn solo album, and too many others to list here. Hopefully Merge co-founder Mac McCaughan has by now passed National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnow a bunch of Superchunk 7-inches to catch up on.

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer