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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Artist of the Day: The Magnetic Fields


The brainchild of singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt, The Magnetic Fields is a band that is anything but polarized. Having played their very first live show in 1999, they have grown throughout the years into a very different band and seem to be able to create a very different sound with each new album they release. To describe Merritt as theatrical would be an understatement. He has originally planned on making their 1999 triple album, 69 Love Songs, a live musical revue, being performed in hotel bars and cabarets. After realizing that the play would be over 3 hours without an intermission, he decided to instead turn it into a three-disk set that turned into The Magnetic Field’s first big break. A fascinating combination of Broadway show tunes, New Wave, country and so many other genres it takes multiple listens to even put your finger on, 69 Love Songs combines all of Merritt’s musicianship with a whole lot of creativity. The album combines a ton of synthesizers and effects with a ukulele, banjo, accordion, cello, mandolin, flute, xylophone and a Marxophone to boot. Since 69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields have dropped the synthesizers but picked up a whole lot of feedback in both their album I and Distortion. I was a bunch of acoustic love songs strung together (all the titles starting with the letter “I”) that didn’t obtain quite the hype that 69 Love Songs did. But Merritt was able to come back and create a very different and interesting sound on Distortion, their most recent album released in 2008. On Distortion, Merritt makes up for the lack of synths by feedbacking everything from the piano to the accordion, and creating a sound that more than lives up to its name. The lyrics are filled with the same off-kilter humor and irony that The Magnetic Fields’ previous albums have been. Apparently, Merritt has said he is planning on releasing a third album to complete his sans-synths trilogy (to complete I and Distortion). I’m looking forward to it, because if it’s anything like the first two, it will be nothing like the first two.

-Laurie Moot
Currently listening to: "Absolutely Cuckoo" by The Magnetic Fields

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