Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Magnetic Fields - Distortion

The Magnetic Fields
(01.2008, Nonesuch)
Verdict: marvelously magnetic indeed

I don’t remember much about 1999, but I do remember going to the record store to check out The Magnetic Fields album 69 Love Songs. I had heard good things about it, and fully expected to purchase it, but one fact about the album had somehow eluded me until I got to the record store; the fact that 69 Love Songs was in fact a three disc set of 69 songs! Feeling a bit intimidated, I decided against purchasing it, and until now hadn’t returned to The Magnetic Fields. A decision I now regret. The Magnetic Fields newest album Distortion has since made me return and revisit those 69 songs I had passed over in 1999. As with their 1999 album, Distortion is as much a description as it is an album title. The first track is mainly instrumental, and each instrument is laden with distortion. The album meanders pleasantly but rather unremarkably through a few tunes, with alternating vocalists. However, on "Please Stop Dancing," the album begins its ascent into a beautifully clever and melodic climax. It isn’t often that songs about lost love can come across as anything less than pitiful. Such songs often turn into an overly sentimentally mushy mess, but Stephin Merritt manages to write pop songs that feel honest, and fun at the same time. Lines like "Drive on, Driver’s" ‘take me to the airport, I need to be extremely far away; so I might forget about her someday’ don’t come across like a lame cliché as they normally might. And maybe it’s because I had a dream about a girl I wish I still had the day I first listened to this album, but "Too Drunk to Dream" is a marvelous ode to the benefits of alcohol on a troubled mind. On Distortion, The Magnetic Fields effectively turn the typically mushy into a masterful album, and that is quite an accomplishment.

-Spruce Lee

Magnetic Fields on Myspace

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