Compared to last year, when it scored two top-10 albums on the Billboard 200, Durham-based Merge Records has had a fairly quiet 2008. But this week, Merge registers its third-highest-ever chart placement with "Conor Oberst," the eponymously titled solo album by the Bright Eyes frontman who played in Carrboro last weekend. On first-week sales of 29,000 copies, the album debuts at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 (right behind "Kidz Bop 14").
Merge is also hosting its first-ever art exhibition on Friday, with artwork from Robert Pollard's book "Town of Mirrors" (Fantagraphics Books). It's at 6 p.m. Friday at Merge's building, 409 E. Chapel Hill St. in downtown Durham, during the monthly "Third Friday" arts/culture crawl; and yes, ex-Guided by Voices mastermind Pollard is supposed to attend.