Aaron Dessner of The National and Annie Clark of St. Vincent are among the coolest/hottest people in indie rock right now. It’s amazing, actually, the company that Dessner keeps. He doesn’t just collaborate with some of the most interesting and amazing people in indie rock. He’s good friends with them, too. He’s tight with Sharon Van Etten. He’s tight with Annie Clark.
Dessner and Van Etten collaborated to make the brilliant song “Think You Can Wait”, which they wrote specifically for the film “Win Win”. I watched that movie just for the song, which is in the closing credits. It turns out that I liked the movie anyway.
Annie Clark and those Dessner boys have collaborated before, and they’ll collaborate again. Hopefully, many times. This, though, might be the best of the lot. This is that song.
“Sleep All Summer” as covered by St. Vincent and The National
Merge Records, as you know, is one of the best indie rock labels going, and they’ve been going for 23 years. Right here in my back yard. That’s fantastic luck for me, because every five years they have a huge weekend-long festival when a bunch of the bands play. It’s brilliant and hot, and I go every time.
For the fifth and tenth anniversaries, they produced a single disc compilation, showcasing their catalog. For the 15th anniversary, they produced a 3-disc set, which was pretty impressive.
They went all-out for the 20th anniversary. They produced a ridiculously big boxed set of 16 discs. That’s right. 16. It was a monthly subscription thing, so you built it as you went along. It was 14 “Merge Mix Tape” discs, each curated by a celebrity. Most were from the music industry, but there were a few “others” like SNL alumnus Amy Poehler, filmmaker Miranda July and comedian Zach Galifinalkaoidnaliketas. In addition to the 14 curated collections, there was a “remix” collection, and there was a “covers” collection. That last one is my favorite. It features non-Merge artists doing covers of their favorite Merge artists. A lot of the covers, naturally were of Superchunk, The Magnetic Fields and The Arcade Fire.
Today’s song is among my favorites on that covers compilation. I don’t know the original version very well, but it’s by Chapel Hill band Crooked Fingers. I don’t like Crooked Fingers, but I love Archers of Loaf, which is the band that launched Crooked Fingers.
Annie Clark doesn’t get to show off her guitar playing skills here. Neither does Aaron Dessner for that matter. What really works in this song, though, is the dizzying harmonies by Annie Clark and Matt Berninger. Especially in the chorus, with the line:
Why won’t you fall back in love with me?
That absolutely slays me.
Listening to the original version, I just can’t find a way to care about the story. It’s about a couple who has split apart. They’re trying to stay broken up, but it’s proving to be very hard. As hard as getting back together. They both kind of want that, and they simultaneously implore each other to fall back in love. Listening to this version, I’m stopped in my tracks. I almost believe that Annie and Matt are the couple in the song.
The “Covers” compilation is probably the highlight of the massive (and very spendy) boxed set. You can buy the covers disc by itself, directly through the Merge Records web store here. The physical cd is ONLY FIVE DOLLARS. Whichever format you get, know that a portion of the proceeds go to a pool of charities, chosen by the curators.
If you have $220 burning a hole in your pocket and you love physical things, you should get the whole boxed set.