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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Woo



Holy fucking Christ!!  This is the new trailer for Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields and it is so incredible.  It's mostly John Woo (but other members of the band as well and Claudia Gonson's mother) talking about the writing and recording of 69 Love Songs, and its monumental impact upon its release.  Oh, man, this movie is going to be so awesome, you guys.  Eternal gratitude to Nick for this link, manohman is it awesome.

There's also this interview with Mr. Merritt, featuring his most candid comments about the documentary thus far.  Thanks very much to Jan for this interview, and kudos to him for getting such a good one.  And let's not forget this interview in French which does no good at all to an idiotic monolingual boy like myself.

Last but not least is this review of The Magnetic Fields' show in Stockholm.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boring

Negative reviews of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields have thus far been non-existent.  But, The Playlist really seems to hate the film, due to its lack of dramatic impact.  Honestly, this makes me even more excited to see the film, if only because I don't agree with the fact that a documentary's purpose is rooted in portraying dramatic events.  If the film is informative, isn't its goal achieved?  I dunno, that's a discussion for grad students to have, not me.

Not to fear, though.  Gordon and The Whale gives the film a glowing review, as did Matt Dentler (former head of the SXSW film festival.

Lastly, The Line of Best Fit reviewed the Leamington Spa show and Kirkeby Kritikk reviewed the Oslo show.

Good stuff should be coming from this blog soon, I promise.  Ideas have been flowing, and I've become pretty excited about some of them.  I thank you all for your patience!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Knox

Ms. Claudia Gonson is slated to perform at a benefit for Chris Knox (of Tall Dwarfs/Toy Love/6ths fame) in New York City on May 6.  Chris Knox, a brilliant musician in his own right, suffered some life-altering strokes last year and the proceeds from this show will be going to his recovery.  Stephin also contributed a cover of the Tall Dwarfs song "Beauty" to the Knox benefit/tribute album charmingly entitled Stroke earlier this year.

The absolutely lovely M+E are offering six signed LP copies of Distortion for $25 a pop at their site.  Snatch 'em up quick!

Couple more reviews of The Magnetic Fields' London show at the Barbican.  MusicOMH had a swell time at the show and talks about it in a nearly religious way, which is cool.  T5M uses the phrase "indie-rock band" in its first sentence of its review, much to my chagrin, but the rest of the review isn't bad at all, so all is (mostly) forgiven.

Footage of The Magnetic Fields playing Stockholm can be found here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tammy

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields is blowing up!  It's been announced as part of two new film festivals, the first being the film's European premiere in Dublin, Ireland, the second being the Independent Film Festival in Boston, MA.  The Skytram Express has posted what proves to be by far the best review of the film published thus far, despite the consistent misspelling "Stephen."

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service fame, known for covering Stephin Merritt songs in the past and for being married to one of the most beautiful women in the world, can be heard covering "I Don't Want to Get Over You" here.  It's lovely.

Here is a look at what The Magnetic Fields have been playing on the European leg of the tour, which is almost identical to the last show they played in New York City, so it looks like some certain little blogger deserves a cookie or a medal or something.  There are also some other pretty awesome photographs of the band to be found in the same album.  Thanks very much to Mr. David Eudaldo Farre´ for this link.

And, lastly, but most certainly not least, here is a video of the lovely Ms. Shirley Simms singing Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" in Ms. Wynette's trailer:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Manchester

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields will now be screened at the Torontonian film festival Hot Docs, as is evidenced here.  Lucky Canucks.  Incidentally, the film is briefly reviewed by The Quietus; it seems the only complaint any review has made thus far is the film's lack of dramatic oomph, which is interesting, but not something about which I'm worried.  As a fan of the man and the band in question, I'm sure it will be compelling to me through and through.

The U.K. must be conducive to prompt journalism, as there are tons of reviews of The Magnetic Fields' shows at the Barbican Hall, Manchester Cathedral, and Leamington Assembly Hall.  Firstly, David Green reviews the show here.  The Arts Desk raves about the show in a very well thought-out review here.  And, finally, the astoundingly well-named Ukulele Porn describes the band as "strange, charismatic, and very special," which is, of course, all too appropriate.  Read the review right here.

Stephin Merritt is interviewed on a BBC radio show based out of Manchester here.  It's a really great interview, in which Mr. Merritt seems on top form and is henceforth asked why he isn't a stand-up comedian.  He also claims to have not quite yet written the score to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea yet, which might be worrisome if it weren't for my knowledge of Mr. Merritt's intense writing process.  Go forth and listen, all!

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Indie"

The Manchester show received this review from a nonplussed viewer.  To be quite honest, I'm getting tired of people approaching Mr. Merritt's work as if it were part of the indie-rock canon.  People expecting to go see the band and be treated to a show similar to that of any other band working today are really only feeding into the minutiae of sameness that indie culture encourages.  The Magnetic Fields are not a band that can be so easily lumped, in my opinion, and I'm waiting for the day when Mr. Merritt is removed from it.  But, quoth the man himself:

"I could make only calypso music for the next hundred years and win all the calypso Grammys for the next hundred years, and still be found only in the indie tock section of every store and online retailer."

Sad state of affairs, to be sure.

But, to be a bit more upbeat now, I recommend a quick listen to this charming cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Grand Canyon," by the regrettably-named The Magnetic Feeler-Uppers.  I wish I were making that name up, yes, but the song is quite good and well worth your three minutes.

Perhaps most excitingly today, though, is this hour-long interview with Kerthy Fix, director of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields.  Despite the interviewers' lack of in-depth knowledge in Mr. Merritt's work itself, the interview offers tons of great insight into Ms. Fix's and Mr. O'Hara's work process on the film and their relationship with their subject.  Kudos to the interviewers, for sure.  Unfortunately for me, however, hearing this only makes me more painfully giddy about this film.  Driving to Durham is looking less and less likely, so I'm having to fall back on my original plan of waiting on the DVD, which certainly does not sound like a fun prospect.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reviews

Inside Pulse Movies has reviewed Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields here.  Unfortunately, this may be the only review ever linked to on Aging Spinsters that features the word "blowjob."  Fortunately, the review dishes on lots of juicy details about the film in its few short paragraphs.  It is recommended.

And, while we're talking about the film, it's probably worth noting that it has been confirmed as part of a film festival in Buenos Aires!

The Magnetic Fields' show at the Manchester Cathedral is reviewed here, which features the picture to the right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Films

Mr. Merritt is appearing on BBC 6, like, pretty much as I type this.  I'm not sure if the recording will be archived or not, but I will get back on it and let you know if I find anything out.  I'm listening to him play "Seduced and Abandoned" on his uke right now, and it's lovely.  I am befuddled as to why this wasn't part of the set list on the tour.

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields has been confirmed as part of a Floridian film festival.  The times for its screening at Full Frame Festival in Durham have been confirmed as well.

In other film-related news, all you San Franciscans need to go buy tickets to see Mr. Merritt's score to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea right here, right now.

After giving it a think (thanks in part to frequent commenter Mr. Nick David), I think the fanboy gushes that are mentioned in the introductory paragraph to this blog are going to become more prominent in the coming days.  It is my hope that this will generate some discussion amongst us diehard fans and keep the blog alive in the waning days of really active news/interviews/tour news/whatever.  It'd be much appreciated if you lot pitched in some ideas of what you'd like to see and all that jazz.  Much love to you all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Powers

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields premiered the other night.  Thus far, reviews are scant, presumably because people are still in the thick of SXSW.  But, I have happened upon two reviews, both of which offer a pretty positive insight into the film.  This one from A.V. Club Austin complains only of the film's lack of dramatic oomph, but does acknowledge it is a nice insight into Mr. Merritt's mind, life, and process.  This one from St. Edward's University Online is short and sweet, but says several nice things about the film.

It looks as if news might be coming to a slow halt.  Throughout February and March, this blog was crazy kinds of active, but I expect it to move at a more reasonable pace now.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet, but we shall see.  Thanks again to all you lovely, lovely readers of mine.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Songs

WNYC posted some recordings of The Magnetic Fields' show at Brooklyn Academy of Music last month. Songs included are "Acoustic Guitar," "The Nun's Litany," "All the Umbrellas in London," and "Fear of Trains."  The recordings are crisp and lovely and can be found here.  For those of you who missed the opportunity to see the band, I particularly recommend "Fear of Trains," as Ms. Simms' vocals are stu-fucking-pendous.

It's also worth noting that The Magnetic Fields' American tour ended last night, meaning We Are Having a Hootenanny will be coming to a close soon.  Sad, sad times.  The European leg of the tour starts next week.  The Magnetic Fields played a pretty different set list last night at Town Hall, an amalgamation of the two they've been playing, plus "Papa Was a Rodeo."  It's my assumption that this is the set they'll be playing in Europe, although they probably just wanted to mix it up for folks who went to all three shows.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Handler

So, it's not really news per se, but I found this pretty interesting.  Years ago, I read this playlist/interview with TMF accordion superstar Mr. Daniel Handler wherein he says that he wrote a screenplay inspired by The 6ths' song "Give Me Back My Dreams."  I never thought much of this other than "That's pretty goddamn cool," but apparently, it's something about which I should have thought more!  Salty Features lists the film as being in progress, much to my shock and awe, and the film has its own IMDB page.  Whoa.

Back in the realm of more Merritt-related news, The New York Times posted this review of The Magnetic Fields' Town Hall show.  Then, there's this review featuring a really glorious snippet of stage banter from Mr. Merritt.  The Awl posted this really, really great review as well, featuring a pretty cool little backstory of the author's relationship to the band. Also: I'd kill to see Stephin Merritt sing "Bela Lugosi's Dead."

The previously-mentioned-on-this-blog Sound of Indie posted a file of The Magnetic Fields playing "You and Me and the Moon" at the Brooklyn show last month.  And, not that I'm encouraging this sort of thing, but there's also a video of the band playing "Better Things" last night in Town Hall.  Pretty beautiful stuff.



Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marimba


The above photograph features Mr. Merritt and Mr. Ethan Cohn playing Erik Satie's "Vexations" on marimba.  "Vexations" is about an eight-hour long piece of music consisting of the same small bar repeated over and over 840 times in a row.  Stephin Merritt contributed about 20 minutes to a performance back in 2006, the audio of which can be heard right here.  The entire performance, (featuring Margaret Leng Tan, noted for having played toy piano on The 6ths' "I've Got New York"), can be found here.

This review of The Magnetic Fields' show last night at Town Hall features a myriad fantastic pictures from the show, including the best ones of Laura Barrett I've seen thus far.  Ms. Barrett was, by the way, fascinating.  I bought both her CDs.  But, anyhoozle, it's a nice review, even if they do misspell Ms. Simms' last name.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

News


You guys, you have to understand that I am very tired right now and want to go to bed pretty fucking badly.  As such, I am not going to post every single review I found of the shows I saw, just a select few with pictures.  I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me and know that the blog will be back in its usual form probably tomorrow.

But, before I post those reviews, I must say that Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields has been announced as part of the  Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC!!  This is particularly exciting news for me, as Durham is within a somewhat (ahem) reasonable driving distance from where I live, which means I will most likely be attending the screening of the film.  Of course, I will let it be known loud and proud when this is confirmed.  The screening times for the film will be announced on March 18th.

Limited tickets have been released for all three of The Magnetic Fields' shows in New York.  They can be purchased right here.

Here are some pictures of The Fields' show in St. Louis (which was an awesome show in a shitty venue).  The ultra-cool Joey Flispart of Backseat Sandbar has posted some pretty great pictures of the Bloomington show here.  The Riverfront Times posted a review and some pictures here.

And, that's all, surprisingly enough.  If I've missed something important, please let me know, but other than some scant reviews, this appears to be all that I've missed in the past four days.

Review

What to say...?

Is there any way to describe the insurmountable feeling of seeing your favorite band in concert?  How do I describe an experience so emotional and wholly personal?  What is there to say about that breathtaking moment where you see Stephin Merritt walking, finger plugged in ear, from behind a curtain and going to perch himself on his little stool to play these songs that mean so incredibly much to me in my life for me?  How do I summarize?  I really can't muster up the strength or intelligence to do so in any sort of comprehensible manner.  I can say, though, that there were times during my experience with The Magnetic Fields at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, The Pageant, and the Harris Theater where I was literally trying to stop smiling because my cheeks hurt so much, but I just downright couldn't.  And, goddamn it, that's special.

At this point, you've all seen the set lists, and know how stupendous they are.  The band is fluctuating between two sets and both of them do an absolutely superb job covering the band's career, though the obvious focus is on Realism.  And, goddamn, do those songs translate well live.  Mr. Merritt is known for his lack of vocal character, but I swear on "Better Things," these past four nights, he sounded downright emotive.  "Interlude" and "The Dolls' Tea Party" sound much more subdued in this bluegrass-y setup, but superb in their own right.  The harmonies on "You Must Be Out of Your Mind?"  Goddamn amazing.

Having only seen the band before on their Distortion tour, that is my only frame of reference.  And, on that tour, the synth-lines from the older songs were mostly replaced by Mr. Davol's cello work.  This year, though, they're touring with Ms. Gonson on electric keyboard, and I must admit this is a great improvement.  Its presence allowed the band to perform songs like "Long Vermont Roads" and "Falling in Love With the Wolfboy," which seem (to me, at least) pretty unperformable without their synthetic sounds.  It was a nice change of pace for the set lists to feature pre-69LS material so heavily.

Despite his reluctance to be so, Mr. Merritt is an amazing performer and seeing the band serves as a really brilliant emotional roller coaster.  Of course, the fact that I have such a supreme emotional connection to this music probably serves as some sort of bias, to which I readily admit, but anyone who could have sat through any of the four shows I saw without being touched or moved in some way is likely not an emotional creature.  Anyone familiar with his recorded work should already be familiar with the power of Mr. Merritt's voice has to make you connect with the emotion he's trying to convey, but live, it's just transcendent.  Trans-fucking-scendent.

And, Ms. Shirley Simms singing "Suddenly, There's a Tidal Wave?"  Yes, please.  Hell, I mentioned the harmonies on "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" before, and that's something upon which I could expound all day.  When Ms. Gonson, Ms. Simms, and Mr. Merritt sing together, magic occurs.  I am not exaggerating.

Of course, I wept and wept, and with good reason; those of you who have seen The Magnetic Fields know what kind of experience it is; for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, know that it's simultaneously joyous, heartbreaking, life-changing, and resplendent.  I've typed a small number of paragraphs and that is something that could never do the experience justice.  Just go.  Go.  Go.  Go.

I hope to have a post summarizing all the news I missed up before the end of the night.  We shall see.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Trip

Stephin Merritt will be appearing on a Chicagoan radio show on the 9th and 10th of this month.  I've yet to see whether or not this will be streamed online or at least preserved in some shape or form.  We shall see.

Variety posted this review of The Magnetic Fields' Los Angeles show, and reveals Mr. Merritt's newest band The Wasps, or something?  Yeah, congratulations on fantastic research.  Anyhow, cynicism aside, it's a decent review with a pretty neutral opinion on the show.  Here is a much more well-thought-out review, though, from Orange County Register.

Couple of new interviews as well.  This one from Milwaukee Express features an idea for an album full of untitled songs.  Interesting, to say the least.  And, then there is this one from Playback STL.

Tomorrow I leave for my trip to see The Magnetic Fields four times in four days!  I know how much you all care is the only reason I let this information be so known.  But, anyhoozle, I'll most certainly be updating with details of the shows and all their many wonders.  If picture opportunities present themselves, I will certainly snap away, but I won't be taking pictures during the show - I'll be far too busy weeping.  But, I do hope you'll excuse me if this blog is inactive for the few days I'll be gone.  I shall do my best, but all my downtime in hotels, I'm certain, shall be spent resting and freaking the geek out about how great my life is.  So, yeah...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Herbst


The above picture was taken at The Magnetic Fields' show at the Herbst Theater, a full review of which can be found here.  

As mentioned a few days ago, Ms. Claudia Gonson got to sit in big Swedish thrones and chat with Yoshi Kato as a part of Noise Pop Festival.  A write-up of the full event is here; scroll down to get to the bit featuring our favorite manager/drummer/pianist/taco lover.

Here is this video of Mr. Merritt performing "The Nun's Litany"at this event.  I'd love to see more from this event, particularly the Q&A.

Mr. Merritt is interviewed by the Riverfront Times here, and I am a firm believer that that first question could be asked of him about all of his songs and the answer would be consistently engaging.  The LAist interviews him here, which makes me wish I could be at one of those shows where Mr. Merritt sang the wrong lyrics to a song...  And, lastly, there's this interview with the Chicago Free Press, which appears to be nothing more than a slightly extended version of the Wisconsin Gazette interview I posted the other day.  But, whatevz.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Drawing

The drawing to the left is by Ms. Alice Rutherford, and is lovely.

There are a few more reviews of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, and thus far they all remain wholly positive.  Spinning Platters does a good job summarizing the experience of the film while still keep a professionally vague distance, which is nice (thanks much to Gordon for providing me with the link to this one).  SF Appeal provides some pretty wry zingers from Mr. Merritt's afterword Q&A session with the audience.

Mr. Merritt is interviewed by NUVO here, and by the Louisville, KY paper Courier Journal right the fuck here (pardon my excitement on that last bit, I am a Kentucky boy, after all).  By far today's best interview, though, and the source of the Rutherford drawing, is this interview with L.A. Record.  I love when Mr. Merritt talks about art; it makes me nostalgic for his days as a critic...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bore


There were tons of reviews of The Magnetic Fields' show in Oakland, but apparently, no photo passes were handed out, which is quite frustrating as I wanted to see the band in action with Mr. Daniel Handler and Mr. Johnny Blood.  Anyhow, Plank Magazine, Spinning Platters, and A+E all loved the show, to no surprise.

The sneak preview of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields was last night as well, and there is a review up at this blog.  The review is not the most detailed in the world, but it functions nice as the probably the largest chunk of information on the film available thus far.  Also, I stole the picture above from said blog.  If you were there, it'd be lovely of you to just leave a little review in the comments section.  <3

Not to mention this interview with Mr. Merritt from the Wisconsin Gazette.  In it, Mr. Merritt reveals the inspiration behind the title of the No-Synth Trilogy, recounts his Tom Lehrer story, and reveals his lack of drive to write a book.  Good times.