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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This American Life song lyrics

I know Stephin Merritt didn't actually write the lyrics to the songs from the latest This American Life, but I took the liberty of transcribing the lyrics anyhow. I highly recommend you support Mr. Merritt and buy the songs here.

Big Blank Sheet of Paper
I had this big blank sheet of paper,
where I was going to write my reasons to live,
or why not end it all today?
And kids was the only reason I could give.

I felt betrayed by my religion,
& by the only person I had ever loved
& opened up to.
You bet I felt betrayed!

They all said pray!
Yeah, well, I prayed.

I've had the knife sitting in front of me.
I've had the pills sitting in front of me.
And I've been sitting right up on the cliff's edge,
with one foot dangling off the ledge,
& kids was the only reason I could give.

They all said pray!
Yeah, well, I prayed.

Colorado City
Back in Colorado City,
we did not associate with colored people.
But, in Ogden, it's okay.
These two kids who spoke Swahili -
we all had this barbecue -
& my girls loved them!
It was just like night & day,
seeing my kids play!

Back in Colorado City,
wearing shorts is like rebelling before God.
But, in Ogden they don't care,
so we wore just what we wanted.
Girls went shopping (skirts & dresses)
& played music!
We could never do that there -
everyone would stare!

We couldn't wear red because maybe that's what Jesus would wear,
we couldn't wear anything bought in a store.
We couldn't eat sugar, play games,
the kids couldn't have toys,
or do anything fun anymore.

But, in Ogden we had parties!
And the older kids went on a roller coaster,
& they went and got their hair done

I've lost hope,
& I lost my youth.
Lost my church,
& the whole darn truth!
I lost my health,
I can't do 9 to 5,
but I can still drive.

I started life again at 33.
I hauled my ass to Texas to be me,
to save my sanity!

I lost my family,
all the doors slammed shut.
I know who I am,
but I'm not sure what.
I did what I had to do to survive.
I don't sleep too well,
But I can still drive.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

This American Life, more

If you haven't listened to the latest This American Life, then not only are you not stereotypically right in the thrust of Stephin Merritt's usual demographic, but you're missing out on a mini-musical by Mr. Merritt himself. The episode, about regrets, features a really charming story told by producer Miki Meek and scored with original songs by Mr. Merritt. Listen to his segment here. If you find yourself uninterested in radio journalism, you can download just the songs here.

Also, due to either laziness or business (I'll let you decide), I neglected to mention that Stephin Merritt's Performance, a collaboration with choreographer Rashaun Mitchell that premiered in Boston last year, had a brief run in Los Angeles. I mention it after the fact only because there are some pretty enticing pictures at this link, including the one to the right.

As per usual, Mr. Merritt has been offering tons of interviews around the release of his new book. I'll spare us all by only posting two. This one, with Peter Sagal, is delightful, somewhat informative and features occasional background laughter from one handsome little blogger. And, this one, conducted at the LA Review of Books, is shorter but fun nonetheless.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pair of Interviews

I typically try to only post interviews in bulk or alongside something more substantial to avoid making this meager blog look more ugly and over-crowded than it may already be. But, there are two recent interviews that are both quite good and I thought it might be prudent to share them promptly as opposed to waiting.

The AV Club provides the first here, and in it Mr. Merritt answers a pretty diverse array of questions. Most of them aren't of particular substance necessarily, but if you're sick of reading the "I put the poems on index cards" story but still appreciate Mr. Merritt's punditry, then it is recommended.

The next with the New York City Center is here. In it, Mr. Merritt talks at length about his favorite obscure musical and goes into some detail about his own work in musical theater. I really recommend it. Thanks very much to Matt Weinstock for sending the interview my way!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An event, some interviews

Next month, Stephin Merritt will be performing at Le Poisson Rouge next month with Tanya Donnelly. Also in attendance will be the inimitable Sam Davol. Tickets and further information can be found here.

There have also been several interviews lately, but to spare all of our sanity I'll only post those that offer the most information. Salon interviews Mr. Merritt here, the last line of which perhaps sums up every interview Mr. Merritt has done for the past 15 or so years.

Also, Mr. Merritt's recent interview at the JCCSF (part of his recent book tour) has been uploaded to Youtube. It's fairly fun and features a musicalized version of the poem "Aa," as well as a somewhat impromptu performance of "Roses," about which I reckon I am one of the few to be significantly excited. Find it embedded below.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interviews, a new live date

Ever the trusty pundit, Mr. Merritt has been doing a few interviews to promote 101 Two-Letter Words. The first is this one with The New Yorker, whose title I can't believe isn't being used by every single goddamn article about the book.

The LA Times offers this short interview, wherein Mr. Merritt explains the impetus for making his mnemonic devices poems and not songs.

Paste Magazine offers this interview, which only serves as reminder of how badly I want to hear Mr. Merritt's song about Ethan Frome.

Most excitingly though, is the fact that Mr. Merritt is continuing his series of solo live shows. The day after his Chicago book tour stop, Mr. Merritt will be performing at The Old Town School of Folk Music in the same city. More information can be found here.

Having seen The Magnetic Fields play the same venue in 2008, I can attest to it being a really wonderful space for this music. If you go to the show, be sure to come say hi to a certain little blogger, as I've already procured tickets thanks to the overflowing kindness of one Mr. Andrew Horton and his friend Jessica.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

New York Times Interview

The New York Times did this interview with Stephin Merritt. It's a quick read and offers little in the way of new information, although the new book is discussed in some depth. So, there's that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dans la cour

Stephin Merritt wrote the score for the new Catherine Deneuve film Dans la Cour (the English translation being In the Courtyard). The film premiered in France earlier this year, with an international release forthcoming. The film's plot revolves around a musician, so it's possible that the music is more than just incidental, although this is purely conjecture on my part. That being said, Mr. Merritt's incidental music for Eban and Charley is some of my favorite work of his, so I'd be excited to hear anything! Watch the trailer for the film below.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

101 Two-Letter Words Book Tour!

This Fall, Stephin Merritt will be heading out on a brief book tour to promote his new book, 101 Two-Letter Words. A complete list of dates can be found here. I'm of course delighted by Mr. Merritt's series of solo public performances as of late, but also a bit bewildered. Nevertheless, I will no-doubt be at that Chicago show! In the mean time, check out that calendar and preorder the book here.

Also, be sure to read this interview with Mr. Merritt from a couple months ago that somehow slipped by my radar until now.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SM Speaking at The Brattle

On October 10, Stephin Merritt will be appearing in conversation with Ethan Gilsdorf at The Brattle in Cambridge, MA. The appearance will be in conjunction with Merritt's upcoming book, 101 Two-Letter Words, which you should preorder right now. Mr. Merritt will also be signing his book.

Tickets for the event are $22 (including the cost of the book) and will go on sale September 9th. Here's to hoping this is the first in a series of similar events for Mr. Merritt!

While I'm here, don't forget to buy tickets for Stephin Merritt's solo performance at BAM September 19th. Sharing the bill with Mr. Merritt are Iron & Wine and Devendra Banhart, the latter of whom's tablas are heard on Realism.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Interview with Bob Stanley

Stephin Merritt interviews Bob Stanley of St. Etienne for Salon here. Bob Stanley is best known as a drummer for the aforementioned seminal 90s pop band (whose lead singer sings one of the best 6ths songs, I might add), but he and Mr. Merritt predominantly talk about Stanley's new book Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce.

And while we're on the subject of books, let's not forget to preorder our copies of Stephin Merritt's literary debut, 101 Two-Letter Words.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seeing Coraline: A Review

On Saturday August 9th, I saw the midwest premiere of Stephin Merritt and David Greenspan’s musical Coraline. Having lived with the cast recording of the show’s original off-Broadway production since its release, I am intensely familiar with the music and had desperately wanted to see a production of the show since Mr. Merritt initially started publicly talking about it as a potentiality way back in 2007 or so. So, I reckon that I am amongst the show’s spectators whose expectations were the highest by a fair amount.

That being said, HOLY SHIT. I can’t express enough that this show did not let me down one bit. I mentioned the cast recording having been a part of my life for a while, and I should emphasize that it’s amongst my favorite work by Merritt; its experimental nature combined with Merritt’s usual economy of words combine to make a product that is wholly relatable and very special to me. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but seeing Black Button Eyes’ production of the show made me love the music so much more.

The play itself is done in a very interesting way, extremely lo-fi and experimental. Yet, at no time did I feel disconnected from the reality it was presenting. The director, Ed Rutherford, has done a phenomenal job of finding the delicate balance that comes along with suspending an audience’s disbelief and utilized experimentation in a way every bit as unique and engaging as the play's famously experimental music. At no point did the play feel inaccessible or have the standard collegiate artsy “weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird” feeling, but rather it came across that Mr. Rutherford has an intense understanding of the play’s story, tone, and music and worked hard to ensure that this story was told the best possible way it could be told in this medium.

I don’t want to sound as though I’m doting (although long term readers of this blog will likely recognize this as a habit of mine), but I similarly can’t say enough good things about the cast. Sheridan Singleton does a spectacular job of bringing the title character to life, and I feel as though the spotlight usually reserved for this type of role is well-shared amongst her castmates. The play calls for a small cast, with several actors doubling as rats and dogs and ghost children and all such manner of things, which could lead to a messy production if not handled properly. But the entire cast handles this responsibility really gracefully and the transitions never come across any harsher than they need to. Of particular note is Justin Kimrey, who plays the Father, Other Father, and a slew of others. It was really fun to watch his subtle shifts in energy as he embodied each different role, the scene of the Other Father’s demise being a particular highlight that was very eerie and fun to watch.

I’d also be remiss not to mention Ryan Lanning, who plays the Other Mother. While the entire production was filling some Shaq-sized shoes in my mind, I went into the show thinking Lanning would likely have the hardest job of all. David Greenspan’s performance as the Other Mother was so chilling and singular; “Falling, Falling” is a song that I’ve always felt was brought to another level by his performance. Ryan Lanning, to be blunt, fucking nailed it. His performance is extremely unique and stoic, poised with creepiness and a general sense of dread when he’s onstage (a weird compliment if ever there was one). When Coraline recoils at the Other Mother’s touch, the audience does as well. And his performance of the aforementioned “Falling, Falling” was perhaps the highlight of the entire show for me.

Obviously, though, the part of the show I was looking forward to the most was the music. Mr. Merritt’s music is obviously an integral part of my life, strange though that may be, and it mattered very much to me how it was going to be treated in this production. As I mentioned, the original cast recording is a favorite of mine, and part of the reason for that is its unusual instrumentation. The entire score is composed on three types of pianos: a regular grand piano, a toy piano, and a prepared piano that has an abundance of bullshit wedged into its strings. Not to be overly analytical, but the metaphorical implications here are fairly overt, in that the grand piano represents the domesticity of Coraline’s regular world, the toy piano represents Coraline’s childlike sensibility, and the prepared piano represents Coraline’s descent into this strange Other World.

The show’s musical director, Nick Sula, is onstage for the entire performance and has a little pit of pianos. Watching him transition from one piano to the other was a delight every goddamn time, as it felt like he was traveling through this strange world with Coraline. I hope it’s not redundant for me to keep referencing the original cast recording, but the piano on that recording was performed by Phyllis Chen, who is arguably the world’s foremost toy pianist. And, due to the very nature of a prepared piano, the sound of the show is going to be unique to each performance. All that being said, I was really in awe when I found myself enjoying these songs even more than ever while watching the play. Sula’s role here is clearly critical, as the entire score is written for a solo musician (clearly atypical of musical theater), but the singers’ role here is, to me, as critical. I never once felt let down, and felt especially excited by Caitlin Jackson and Kevin Bishop’s (Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, elderly thespians fallen from grace), who brought a really unexpected and wonderful context to their song “When We Were Young And Trod The Boards.”

I feel an immense amount of gratitude to the show’s entire cast and crew for bringing this show to Chicago, but it’s difficult to express exactly how grateful I am that they did so in a way that was so special. I went into the show with an unfair level of expectations, and goddamn it, they exceeded all of them. My fiancĂ©, who had never heard the music before and who lacks the unbridled enthusiasm I have for Mr. Merritt's work in general, similarly said that it was the best piece of theater she’d ever seen, so I feel confident in saying that my feelings on the play are objective and without bias. I used the word special, and that’s exactly how it felt. It was a night at the theater I’ll treasure until senility, that’s for damn sure. What’s also damn sure is that I’ll be seeing the show again before its run ends on September 6th, and you should do the goddamn same. Buy your tickets here, and travel miles and miles if you have to.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Coraline in Chicago

So, my life has gotten busy enough with work, wedding-planning, and cat-petting that prioritizing this blog has become difficult. That being said, I'm still an avid fan of the music this blog covers and am remorseful to be less a part of the scene than I may have been once upon a time. Therefore, it's only appropriate that I return now because my excitement is on FUCKING OVERLOAD to tell you that there is to be a production of Coraline in Chicago!

The play, originally written by Stephin Merritt and David Greenspan, is presented by Black Button Eyes Productions and is to be directed by Ed Rutherford. Its run starts August 8th and continues into September. Having been unable to travel to see the play during either of its previous productions, it should go without saying that I am inordinately excited to see the play in my own city!

For more information, you can go to the website linked above, follow the production on Facebook or Twitter, or bring a sleeping bag and sleep outside the theater until the play begins. Below is a video of the cast and musical director rehearsing the play's overture. If you're unfamiliar with the music, I'd highly recommend buying a copy of the original off-Broadway production's cast recording (featuring David Greenspan as the Other Mother) from Sh-K-Boom, as it's some of Mr. Merritt's most interesting work. It's experimental and weird and yet totally accessible from a musical theater standpoint and goddamn it I'm just excited to finally get to see this play!

Monday, March 10, 2014

101 Two-Letter Words

In a rather strange, yet not-so-unexpected turn of events, Stephin Merritt is publishing his first book!  The book, entitled 101 Two-Letter Words, is to be a series of 101 four-line poems highlighting all of the accepted two-letter words from Scrabble.  The book will feature illustrations from prominent illustrator Roz Chast (whose name Autocorrect keeps changing to "Roz Chaste").  Stephin Merritt briefly talks about the book and its origins here.

The book is to be published this October by W.W. Norton & Company.  Pre-order it here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I'm a Mitzvah

While you're at it, why don't you go ahead and check out this short film directed by Benjamin Berman featuring music by one Stephin Merritt?  It is entitled I'm a Mitzvah and it stars Ben Schwartz from Parks and Recreation, further weirdening the Six Degrees of Stephin game.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm Not Perfect

Hey, guys, remember me?

Stephin Merritt recently performed at this event and the performance was enough to bring me crawling out of my cave to post here again.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a trend.

Anyhow, here's a video of Mr. Merritt performing a cover of a Grace Jones song while wearing long johns.  I love it so much.