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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Quick!" single details


New Music United has announced that the forthcoming single for The Magnetic Fields' "Quick!" will be released on May 7th, 2012.  They do not mention whether the single will be digital-only or if we can expect a physical release.  The cover, pictured above, features the Michael English-designed TMF logo and a sparse white background.  I imagine more details will emerge in the coming weeks (including the upcoming video that Mr. Merritt mentioned once during every show I saw this week), and I hope you forgive me if I do not update the discography until details are solidified. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stephin Merritt discusses Future Bible Heroes

In this interview with Stephin Merritt by Exclaim.ca, Mr. Merritt confirms that the next project he will be undertaking will be a new Future Bible Heroes record!!  Information is scant, but for it to have a status update other than being "in the works" is rewarding to hear.  Ten years is too long to wait for a new Future Bible Heroes LP.

Show Summary

So, I spent the last three nights of my life watching The Magnetic Fields play live, twice in Chicago and once in Iowa City.  If you have yet to see them on this tour and the opportunity presents itself to do so in the future, I highly suggest you do so.  While the changes in this year's lineup (Ms. Simms on ukulele, Mr. Merritt on harmonium and melodica) may seem insignificant, it changes their sound a lot more than one might expect and they sound fantastic.  The set list is also unreasonably good, chronicling The Magnetic Fields' entire career, although there is a particular emphasis on 69 Love Songs and Love at the Bottom of the Sea, to be fair.  That being said, the highlight of the set by far is "Swinging London," which sounds so goddamn lush and full and beautiful that my jaw literally held agape every time I saw them play it.

If ever the band were to record a live album (which I know as well as anyone is a probable impossibility), then it should be on this tour.  The set list is conducive to one and they sound really powerful live.  It makes me sad that I will not have the opportunity to see them play again this year.  Let me live vicariously through you, gentle reader!  Go see this band!

Also, to all the blog-readers who said hello, it was a pleasure meeting you.  One couldn't ask for a kinder, more devoted audience.

I hope you're all following the marvelous tour blog this year, otherwise you're missing out on things like the Shirley-Simms-penned "Hookers and Blow."  Also, the lovely Ms. Emma Straub has started a secondary tour blog for The Paris Review, with the words:pictures ratio decidedly flipped.  It's as entertaining as its partner, though, and can be found here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Quick!" single + video coming soon!

The consistently frustrating Pitchfork has posted this summary of The Magnetic Fields' SXSW show, including some nice pictures I've sampled here.  Am I the only one who thinks Mr. Merritt looks like he's playing some hippie festival in this photo?

Also in the above article, it is confirmed that a music video for the next single from Love at the Bottom of the Sea, "Quick!," is in the works.  Not so long ago, someone on Twitter posted a picture from the set of the video shoot, but I'm unable to find it now.  Any help in this matter would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Videos from Tibet House and Upstairs at the Square

Someone posted this absolutely wonderful video of Stephin Merritt singing "Book of Love" last month at the Tibet House benefit at Carnegie Hall:


Mr. Merritt is accompanied by a string quartet, resulting in the song's best live rendition I've ever heard.

Also, be sure to watch Mr. Merritt and the fabulous Ms. Emma Straub at Upstairs at the Square here.  It's the entire performance and interview, and is wholly entertaining throughout.  If you're too lazy to dedicate an hour of your time to a really fascinating video, though, perhaps you can just read a recap of the event here.

Austinist interviews Stephin Merritt here, and Black Book does so here.  The best interview of today's batch, however, is with Seattle Weekly, where Mr. Merritt recommends cupcakes and mentions an idea for an alternate cover to Love at the Bottom of the Sea.  Also be sure to check out pictures from The Magnetic Fields' show at Union Transfer on Union Transfer's Facebook page.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rockol

Rockol has posted the following brief video interview with Stephin Merritt:



There are also videos of Mr. Merritt playing "Andrew in Drag" and "Your Girlfriend's Face" on his ukulele.  "Your Girlfriend's Face" becomes particularly entertaining when Mr. Merritt tries to emulate the song's fadeout.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Setlists, interviews and the like

A set list from last night's Magnetic Fields show at Union Transfer in Philadelphia has been posted here.  Obviously, if you're seeing the band and want to be surprised then avoid that link like it's the plague, but suffice it to say that there are loads of very exciting gems on there.

Carletta Sue Kay, a San Francisco-based musician who supplies a ton of backing vocals on Love at the Bottom of the Sea, is interviewed about the process of working with Mr. Merritt here.  It's a really great interview and I recommend highly you seek further information on Carletta Sue Kay, who is all kinds of brilliant.  Might I recommend her Facebook page?

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't post this horrendously awkward interview with Stephin Merritt, on whose awkwardness Mr. Merritt is hardly to blame.  It becomes difficult to read at a certain point, and I kind of think Mr. Merritt was kind to even finish the interview - I remember a time when the interviewer would have been more or less eviscerated rather than ignored.

Don't forget to go see Stephin Merritt and Emma Straub at Upstairs on the Square!  Tonight!  Kind of right now-ish!  Get over there!  And then go to the tour blog!  DO IT!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review

Sometimes I fear there are those of you who tire of me editorializing on this blog as frequently as I do.  Particularly when all I have to offer to intelligent conversation is effusive and endless praise of the music the blog purports to cover, which I'm sure doesn't always read as genuinely as it feels to me.  This being the case, I suppose it's only fair to offer the forewarning that if you count yourself amongst this number, then go ahead and bugger off because the following post isn't going to break tradition in any way.


The first noises on "God Wants Us to Wait" suggest that Love at the Bottom of the Sea isn't necessarily the "return-to-form" that so many have been espousing it to be.  Firstly, I'm not sure the band ever had a distinctive form to which they could return as they've never made two records (barring, of course, the first two) that sounded at all alike.  And, of course, just because Stephin Merritt is using synthesizers on a Magnetic Fields record again for the first time since the 90's doesn't mean that he's going to make a record that sounds anything at all like the records he made in the 90's.  Stephin Merritt proves forthwith on this record that he doesn't fucking move backward, he pushes forward to establish a new sonic soundscape and makes consistently beautiful music.


While not quite as cacophonous as 2008's Distortion (because what could be, really?), this is still a noisy record in a lot of ways.  Perhaps noise-y is a better way of putting it, inasmuch as it features a bounty of different sounds throughout.  "The Horrible Party," in particular, features a collage of odd, indiscernible sounds that pulsate throughout, being held together by the melody offered up by Mr. Daniel Handler's accordion.  The synthetic wall of sound is prominent throughout the record.  But, the songs are never overpowered!  The instrumentation and vocal takes are enhanced so much by these strange synthetic backgrounds, bolstered into a wholly different sphere of synth music.

I say synth music because to say that this is a synthpop record is to diminish one of the foremost accomplishments of Love at the Bottom of the Sea.  The production style of the record is far and away removed from the songs themselves in a lot of ways, which might not be much of a surprise for most fans of Stephin Merritt's music.  Mr. Merritt's songs are as genre-spanning as ever, they just happen to be layered with brand new synthesizers.  "All She Cares About is Mariachi," for instance, could easily be translated into Spanish and sung convincingly by an actual mariachi band.  "Goin' Back to the Country" is indeed a country song, and is as engaging as any country song Mr. Merritt has ever written.  That these genre experimentations not only survive but are, in fact, improved by the radical synth sounds is a testament to the masterful production work of this album.  

But, do I love the songs?  Of course I do.  Attempting to describe how widely I smiled when the synthy rhythmic beat of "God Wants Us to Wait" first kicked in would be a futile effort.  The pulsing, bouncing beat of "Born for Love" is amongst Mr. Merritt's most infectious hooks.  I've spent the past two days endlessly dancing to "Infatuation (With Your Gyration)," even when I haven't been listening to it, and alternately crying just thinking about the epic hate song that is "Quick!"  Others have described the record as being overarching; I don't think it's condescending to say that I'm not sure these people are listening properly.  Stephin Merritt's abilities as a lyrical storyteller really are more developed here than ever before.  The economy of words with which the story of "I'd Go Anywhere With Hugh" is told is proof of this enough, and to overlook that by calling it "arch" feels lazy to me.  I admit forthwith that if any one person has a natural predisposition to this music, it would be me, but I do not think I'm allowing that bias to get in the way here.  

Being a fan of Stephin Merritt's music has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life, this blog being cemented proof of that.  Love at the Bottom of the Sea does not disappoint.  Perhaps the best aspect of getting a new record as good as this one is establishing a relationship with the music that will continue to develop the more I listen to it.  I look forward to doing that with this record more than I can say, and discovering new things in it with which to fall in love years and years down the line.  Go buy the record, folks, and listen to it repeatedly.  

Love at the Bottom of the Sea out today!


The Magnetic Fields' tenth album and first to feature synthesizers in over a decade, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, is out in all formats today.  Please support the band and buy as many copies of it as you can here.

The band starts their 2012 tour in Hudson, NY tonight and will be traveling throughout North America and Europe over the ensuing months.  Buy tickets for these shows here, and don't forget to follow along with the band over at Tour at the Bottom of the Sea.

Lastly, Mr. Merritt has given quite a wealth of interviews lately.  Find them all below:

Salon (with long-time supporter and fan of the band Carl Wilson)

If I have left any off, please let me know in the comment or via e-mail.  Expect my own personal review of the new record up later in the day some time, but in the mean time, why don't you go buy an additional copy and listen to as profusely as I have been?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tour blog! Radio shows! Oh my!

Mr. Michael Fusco and Ms. Emma Straub, the oh-so-lovely merch team for The Magnetic Fields, have started the 2012 tour blog, Tour at the Bottom of the Sea.  If you followed the last two tour blogs, then you already know what a hoot they are and how much rejoicing should be appropriate to celebrate the new one.

Also, be sure to listen to Stephin Merritt on the Dinner Party Download podcast and on BBC Radio 6.

The new record comes out in two days.  I'll likely have my copy in one.  People.  We all need to be excited.  Remember to buy the record, and tickets to see the band on their upcoming tour.  Also you all need to go to see Mr. Merritt and the aforementioned Ms. Straub on March 8th at Upstairs on the Square.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Strange Pawers, Interviews


I suppose it was inevitable, really, but behold the new Tumblr account Strange Pawers, which brings together the two disparate worlds of cute pictures of kitty cats and Stephin Merritt lyrics.  Oh, internet.

Behold as well the new Tiny Mix Tapes interview with Stephin Merritt which can be found here.  Not to be outdone, The Brag has similarly posted an interview with Mr. Merritt here.  

Lastly, the lovely reader/commenter Maddock has undergone the task of transcribing the lyrics for Love at the Bottom of the Sea, which can be found here.  I am forever a prude, so I'm refusing to read any of these lyrics until I have the record in my hands, but suffice it to say that this was an endlessly cool thing for Maddock to do.  Oh, and Merge shipped my copy of the record already so it won't be too long before you lot are subjected to my effusively pretentious review of it.  Get ready!