A blog devoted to the works of Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, The Gothic Archies, et al. This blog will feature news related to his work, as well as occasional fanboy gushes from the author. Thank you for stopping by, and may all your dreams come true.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Two

Some new interviews today.

Firstly, Paste Magazine published this interview with Mr. Merritt, wherein he says that there is no recorded version of "Like a Snowman," the song he wrote for Kiki & Herb.  The problem with that is that he is completely wrong; a recorded version does exist, and it's lovely.  As far as I know, he's right that they never recorded "You Should See it In the Snow," but someone needs to inform Mr. Merritt about the other one ASAP - he deserves to hear his own work, I'd say.  There's also some really fascinating stuff on Mr. Merritt's views on gender roles.  Definitely worth a read.

And, The Varsity has this interview up, which most notably features a catastrophic-looking caricature of Mr. Merritt dressed as a priest.  The interview itself, however, offers a juxtaposition the the sketch in its loveliness.

I received my Realism vinyl today, but no M+E poster.  Has anyone received their posters yet?  Can someone tell me what the fuck is up with the posters at this point?

15 comments:

  1. Any ideas on what the album with no vampire songs is?

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  2. on a related note, does that mean every other album has a vampire song on it?

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Sorry. Not focusing there. What Alex asked.

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  5. The first album to pop to my mind was The 6ths' "Hyacinths & Thistles," but then "The Dead Only Quickly" is about the undead, just not specifically vampires.

    Lord knows which album/song he's talking about, and of course he'll never tell.

    And, Keith, I think that there most probably is at least one on MOST records. I won't make an argument for ALL without proof, but most, for sure.

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  6. Well, we can cross out The Charm of the Highway Strip and Realism for sure... I guess that's a start.

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  7. My theory: it's Get Lost.

    A scan of all Mr. Merritt's lyrics indicates nothing; vampire songs tend only to reveal themselves once somebody has stated them as such, the relative obviousness of "I Have the Moon" and "Crowd of Drifters" (and, er, "I'm a Vampire") notwithstanding. And even then, you sometimes wonder if it's just a joke (I really don't want to believe that "I Don't Believe in the Sun" is a vampire song, but whatreyagonnado.) And on, say, Distant Plastic Trees, when the writing was still obtuse, you can pretty much read both truth and fantasy into any of those lyrics. (Is "Living in an Abandoned Firehouse With You" the vampire song there? Does the phrase "moth-eating" actually mean anything?)

    Anyway, I doubt every single one of these albums has a vampire song. But re: the autobiography question, no matter what Mr. Merritt has said regarding the subject, I've always thought that Get Lost was his obvious "confessional" album. Think about it. First there's that floating statement that it was made after "the worst year of [his] life". Second, there are no clear characters - it's all from the perspective of a heartbroken cuckold, and what appears to be the same heartbroken cuckold. The clues are few but unifying; "You and Me and the Moon" roughly establishes the protagonist as a gay male, "The Village in the Morning" provides both geography and a passing reference to a female drummer, and there's that devastating, telling "it'd make a good song or something" in the crowning "All the Umbrellas in London". The rest sounds like a genuine depressed guy, and it's not difficult to hear that guy as Stephin.

    That record, to me, sounds like what Merritt is referring to. Either way, Get Lost is a great breakup record. But its theme is often unremarked upon - not pigeonholed as "electropop" or "travel" like the previous two Fields records - and I scoff when people seem to suggest that the broad palette of 69 Love Songs or, gaw, something like Realism, is at all more rooted in autobiography than GL. The way I hear it, the records that followed (the side projects, 69, and the full conversion to Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks-style writing) represent Merritt's deliberate decision to keep his lyrics as universal and craft- rather than content-conscious as possible.

    Then again, I can't help but hear Distortion as a kind of sequel to Get Lost in novelty-album form. It's not like Courtesans and The Nun's Litany are about hookers and nuns - they're devastating rejection songs in metaphorical guise. That's what I always thought was the point to the whole "Distortion" and "Realism" thing - Distortion is "true" lyrics under the white noise of novelty, whereas Realism is fanciful stuff in perfect anglophiliac clarity.

    Now tell me which GL songs are about vampires.

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  8. Ryan, this is a fucking beautiful piece of criticism, and one that leaves me with little else to say in response. While I'm relunctant to make any definite statements, you've swayed me entirely into believing GL is PROBABLY the record in question. I will listen to it when I get off work, and hopefully I'll have more fully fleshed-out thoughts to share.

    I will add, for now, that the title only helps support your theory, either way it is read. One can read it simply as "Get Lost," as in an angry demand to an individual, from the perspective of one scorned. Sadder still is reading it as "The Magnetic Fields Get Lost," as in another way of Mr. Merritt (potentially) displaying how he's felt in the worst year of his life.

    It is also worth noting that just about every song on the record is sung in first person to someone. The word "you" is very prominent all throughout.

    I do hope very seriously to share more once I spin the record tonight. Until then, chew on this:

    "we were young and in love
    in a burning town
    but the fire went out
    I'm alone again now
    and I finally know
    how cool to be cold
    with the dreaming moon..."

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  9. Reading those was great. Michael, my initial thoughts were almost IDENTICAL to yours. I immediately went to "H&T" until I remembered that pesky "The Dead Only Quickly Decay". I don't know if Stephin has ever written a song as un-ironic as "You you you you you". I don't think there's a cynical bone in that song.

    But I really like the idea that Get Lost is the autobiographical album, largely because it's my favorite Stephin Merritt album, the one I seem to have the most direct emotional connection with. Ryan, you paint it in such devastating terms. I have to admit I hear the genesis of a lot of the musical ideas of 69 Love Songs in Get Lost, although I don't think I've ever considered the lyrical approach. Interesting.

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  10. Upon listening, this analysis is almost irrefutable. More than any record in his entire catalogue, Get Lost's narrators are coming from the same point of view each time. Moreso even than on his musical work or the Tragic Treasury, and I'm not hyperbolizing.

    But, that almost is there for a reason.

    Firstly, "Don't Look Away" is most definitely a vampire song. I hate to break it to you, but it's true. I'm actually surprised I forgot about this before getting off work, but yeah. It's all about casting a spell on someone to fall in love with you by staring in their eye, which is straight out of Dracula (Bela Lugosi style).

    This, however, doesn't take away from the poignancy of your comments, Ryan, at least not for me. The emotional consistency of that record is something for which I've never looked until tonight, and listening to "Love is Lighter Than Air" with that in mind only made me weep more than ever before (which is saying something, trust me). Vampires or no, it's difficult to views these songs as wholly impersonal.

    Also, "You and Me and The Moon" is perhaps too optimistic-sounding to fit in with its partners, though still a fucking beautiful song (which, inconsequentially, I'm looking forward to hearing in March). The heartbreak just isn't there. Yes, this can be refuted as a sort of "prequel" to said heartbreak as it's all about falling IN love and all of the other songs are generally about falling out of it, but still: it breaks the theme, and disallows these assumptions to be made of the song.

    Lastly, I have to mention the album's use of character. Yes, the songs are all sung from similar points-of-view, but few are sung with similar vocal inflections. Mr. Merritt is noted for using the Brechtian alienation technique when mixing his vocals (most notably on Wasps' Nests, where he famously told the singers to sing as if they were bored), removing all sense of character from the singer, allowing a more blank pallet. This album, however, pretty consistently breaks out of that mold (though nowhere near as much as on Realism, where he's almost always in-character), most notably on "When You're Old and Lonely," which just SOUNDS desperate and sad and foolish and hopeful and lonely. I feel like Mr. Merritt is using his voice to switch characters where he would normally do so with his lyricism.

    Also, on a random note: I've always loved the consistent threats of romantic violence in this record

    But, of course, this is all just my opinion, and I still hold yours in high regard, Ryan. I think your criticism really was fascinating, I just can't say I agree 100% (though, I do thank you for prompting me to listen to Get Lost, it had been a couple of weeks). If my dream interview with Mr. Merritt ever does come to fruition, I will bring these issues up with him for sure.

    David, you mentioning "You You You You You" made me re-think my initial thoughts, actually. I agree that it's non-cynical and lovely and generally un-ironic, but it's also supremely rooted in cliche. Granted, Mr. Merritt has stated that he uses cliches as an emotional shorthand, which doesn't instantly mean insincerity, but that song is LOADED with cliche. It's even got onomatopoetic lovebirds!!

    So, all in all: I have no fucking clue about which album Mr. Merritt is talking. None at all. I bet it's some oddball answer like Pieces of April or Orphan of Zhao, or he's just fucking with us or something.

    Also: I really wish all the posts on this blog would lead to this sort of discussion; I've never been prouder of this little blog than I am right now, and I thank you guys for participating in discussion and for reading my drivel!! <3

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  11. Concerning the Nonesuch poster- I received mine a couple of days before the CD arrived. It was signed by Mr. Merritt, as well, which I was not expecting. I don't know why you haven't received yours, you may want to contact Nonesuch.

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  12. I tried e-mailing them, Patrick, but have yet to hear word back. If I don't get it today, I'mma look for a customer service number and call the fuck out of it. Thanks for letting me know, sir!

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  13. I was biting my lip while reading through the lyrics to "Don't Look Away" (and, for that matter, two out of the three moon songs). That vampire rule does make it tricky. But it's so easy to rule everything else out. The albums about Irma/circus clowns and being read manifestos and strange religious tracts just don't seem as real as the one where Stephin wishes eternal loneliness on his ex-lover or tells him he'd like to beat him up for the desperate things he made him do - or, for that matter, telling a new prospect not to look away, so as not to shatter his fragile heart/ego/sense of romance. OR to prevent that spell from being cast...

    Discussions like this are indeed the lifeblood of blogs like this. But Michael, Aging Spinsters has been a favorite stop since I stumbled upon it at the end of last month. It's magnificent not to have to sift through Google to indulge my fascination with Mr. Merritt and his music. Don't worry about the plethora of interviews; what's better than reading Mr. Merritt in interview form? This just makes it easier to locate all of them. And the beautiful thing about a (if I must use the term) "cult" artist such as Stephin is the sense of community the art in question breeds, and how wonderful it feels to discover just how many other people are as enraptured by it all. The fact that anybody comments in the first place is the best kind of validation. SM resources online, however lovely (Stephinsongs, et al.) are all too inconsistently updated, too impersonal. Keep this going and it might just be Merritt Fan Central in a couple of years.

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  14. Y'know, even with my other critiques, I do think I'd wholly agree with your initial thesis were "Don't Look Away" not so obviously a vampire song. That rule does indeed make this journey tricky, but I shall certainly start digging around to see what I can muster up; it'd certainly be interesting to at least have a few more hypotheses out in the ether.

    And, truly, I cannot thank you enough for the kind words, Mr. Andrew! I use no hyperbole when I say that those comments make me feel incredibly rich and proud and are truly the driving force of what keeps this blog alive. I really can't thank you enough, honestly, and this goes for all the other incredible folks that have said such nice things about my little blog.

    Most certainly, as well, I agree with your comments on how wonderful it is to interact with SM fans on such a personal level. There aren't a million of us like there are Dead Heads, or whatever, but it seems that we're all crazy loyal to this man's art, and it's such a beautiful thing to feel part of that community! All the people that have e-mailed me since I started this blog and all the relationships that have been kindled are only further proof of that.

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  15. "When you love someone
    You can't always tell the sun
    It will be twilight soon
    Save a secret for the moon"

    Vampire song? Meh, maybe maybe not.

    p.s love the blog.

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