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Thread: Magnetic Fields - Realism

  1. #1
    Grumpy Old Man Music Head's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Lancaster, Kentucky, United States

    Default Magnetic Fields - Realism

    released Jan 26th, 2010

    from the album - You Must Be Out Of Your Mind

    YouTube - The Magnetic Fields - You must be out of your mind

    from all music

    The Magnetic Fields may be a bona fide band, but in most essential respects they are the project of studio wunderkind Stephin Merritt, who writes, produces, and (generally) sings all of the material. Merritt also plays many of the instruments, concocting a sort of indie pop synth rock. While the Magnetic Fields' albums draw upon the electronic textures of vintage acts like ABBA, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music with Eno, Joy Division, and Gary Numan, Merritt's vision is far more pointed toward the alternative rock underground. His songs are also far warmer and more purely pop-oriented than the above references indicate, sounding at times like late-20th century equivalents to the catalogs of Phil Spector or Brian Wilson.

    Merritt began recording music on his own four-track at a young age, but he didn't issue the first Magnetic Fields album until 1990, when he was well into his twenties. The first pair of discs featured the choirgirl vocals of Susan Amway, but Merritt handled the vocals himself on most subsequent releases, singing in a deep croon not far removed from his European influences. The synth pop quotient also became heavier on those albums, although Merritt always took care to mix in quite a few natural instruments with the electronic ones, often with the help of Claudia Gonson (percussion) and Sam Davol (cello, flute). Throughout it all, an emphasis remained on the band's pop hooks and eccentric, romantically reflective lyrics rather than the bedrock synthetic rhythms and textures.

    In addition to his work with Magnetic Fields, Merritt involved himself in several side projects over the years, the most notable being the 6ths' Wasps' Nests album in 1995. Merritt sang only one track himself on this disc, for which he acted as composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist, employing well-known alternative rock singers like Barbara Manning, Dean Wareham (Luna), Lou Barlow, Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo), Chris Knox, and Robert Scott (the Bats) to handle the lead vocals. After releasing 1997's New Despair as the Gothic Archies, Merritt finally returned to the Magnetic Fields aegis for 1999's 69 Love Songs, released as both a trio of separate discs as well as a limited edition three-CD box set. Merritt spent the next few years releasing more side projects, including records from the Gothic Archies, Future Bible Heroes, the 6ths, as well as numerous soundtracks. It wasn't until May 2004 that Merritt and his Magnetic Fields finally got around to making i, a collection of songs that begin with the aforementioned vowel. Distortion followed in early 2008; shortly thereafter, Merritt set to work on an acoustic folk-influenced album, Realism, which was released in January 2010.

    album review

    All it takes is a few seconds into Realismís familiar first track (the warm, wily, and weary "You Must Be out of Your Mind") to jump to the conclusion that Magnetic Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt has simply run out of musical motifs with which to embed his seemingly endless supply of biting, bittersweet lyrics. Happily, thatís not the case, as the remaining 12 songs on Realism show significant musical growth for one of pop musicís greatest corner bar-, heartbreak-, and sarcasm-obsessed napkin poets. The antithesis of 2008ís noisy Distortion, Realism revels in folk music in a way that hasnít appeared on a Magnetic Fields album since 1990ís Distant Plastic Trees. The songs sound just like their titles would suggest, with "We Are Having a Hootenanny" doing just that, "The Dollís Tea Party" conjuring up images of pastoral English gardens, and "Seduced and Abandoned" suggesting the wee hours of a Tin Pan Alley cabaret. Merritt, who wields a voice that has grown from that of a disheartened, mumbling wallflower to a classy, full-throated baritone, peppers each tune (as well as those sung by the lovely Claudia Gonson) with the usual witticisms (ďI want you crawling back to me/Down on your knees/Like an appendectomyĒ), but thereís an elegance to his prose this time around that suggests there's not only a musical sea change at work. By far his most listenable and fully realized work since 1999ís mammoth 69 Love Songs, Realism feels slight because it is. Itís hard to hear someone so adept with a poison pen preen instead of brood, but itís also rewarding. In the end, longtime fans will want to go back to the opening cut and seek out the comfort of those familiar first three chords that, like a seasoned bluesman with his E to A to B, have become synonymous with their creator, but hopefully, theyíll decide to take another trip through the countryside, soak in some much needed sun, and let bygones be bygones.

    Track Listing

    1."You Must Be Out of Your Mind" - 3:12
    2."Interlude" - 2:11
    3."We Are Having a Hootenanny" - 2:10
    4."I Don't Know What to Say" - 2:29
    5."The Dolls' Tea Party" - 2:17
    6."Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree" - 2:24
    7."Walk a Lonely Road" - 3:04
    8."Always Already Gone" - 2:40
    9."Seduced and Abandoned" - 2:21
    10."Better Things" - 2:31
    11."Painted Flower" - 2:11
    12."The Dada Polka" - 2:21
    13."From a Sinking Boat" - 3:26
    ďA man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.Ē
    Will Rogers

  2. #2
    Record Producer JonG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Atlanta, USA


    I want to give this a listen. I was a big Magnetic Fields/ Stephen Merritt fan once upon a time. Their album 69 Love Songs was one of my favorites during my college years.

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