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The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields may be a bona fide band, but in most essential respects they are the project of studio wunderkind Stephin Merritt, who writes, produces, and (generally) sings all of the material. Merritt also plays many of the instruments, concocting a sort of indie pop-synth rock. While the Magnetic Fields' albums draw upon the electronic textures of vintage acts like ABBA, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music with Eno, Joy Division, and Gary Numan, Merritt's vision is far more pointed toward the alternative rock underground. His songs are also far warmer and more purely pop-oriented than the above references indicate, sounding at times like late 20th century equivalents to the catalogs of Phil Spector or Brian Wilson.

Merritt began recording music on his own four-track at a young age, but he didn't issue the first Magnetic Fields album until 1990, when he was well into his twenties. The first pair of discs featured the choir girl vocals of Susan Anway, but Merritt handled the vocals himself on most subsequent releases, singing in a deep croon not far removed from his European influences. The synth pop quotient also became heavier on those albums, although Merritt always took care to mix in quite a few natural instruments with the electronic ones, often with the help of Claudia Gonson (percussion) and Sam Davol (cello, flute). Throughout it all, an emphasis remained on the band's pop hooks and eccentric, romantically reflective lyrics rather than the bedrock synthetic rhythms and textures.

In addition to his work with Magnetic Fields, Merritt involved himself in several side projects over the years, the most notable being the 6ths' Wasps' Nests album in 1995. Merritt sang only one track himself on this disc, for which he acted as composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, employing well-known alternative rock singers like Barbara Manning, Dean Wareham (Luna), Lou Barlow, Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo), Chris Knox, and Robert Scott (the Bats) to handle the lead vocals. After releasing 1997's New Despair as the Gothic Archies, Merritt finally returned to the Magnetic Fields aegis for 1999's 69 Love Songs, released as both a trio of separate discs and a limited-edition three-CD box set. Merritt spent the next few years releasing more side projects, including records from the Gothic Archies, Future Bible Heroes, and the 6ths, as well as numerous soundtracks. It wasn't until May 2004 that Merritt and his Magnetic Fields finally got around to making i, a collection of songs that begin with the aforementioned vowel. Distortion followed in early 2008; shortly thereafter, Merritt set to work on an acoustic folk-influenced album, Realism, which was released in January 2010. The Magnetic Fields returned in 2012 with Love at the Bottom of the Sea. Showcasing a return to the band's classic synthesizer and acoustic guitar pop sound, the album featured the single "Andrew in Drag." ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: 69 Love Songs

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: The Magnetic Fields

Comments

The most underated band in the past 20 years
armsbyned
Yeah his musical composition and instrumentat i o n can be quite genius I agree, but his lyric-writin g and singing is absolutely horrible.
He might be an a**hole, but that doesn't mean he's not a genius. I only met him once in an elevator in Oakland and he was kind enough to me, but I wasn't working with him.
armsbyned
Don't think there is anyone in the music industry that can even come close to the level of pretentiousn e s s of Stephen Merritt. Folks I know that have worked with him all attest to him being an absolutely insufferable snob and prick, which is all too evident in his music, especially on the tracks he sings.
nalomacs
Gotta love this guy. My favorite track is Queen of the Cannibals
paulrstiff
All the money in Tokyo couldn't make me stay. All the umbrellas in London couldn't stop this rain...class i c and great fun. Another fantastic song from Magnetic Fields.
tomlugnut
Also love their other alias Future Bible Heroes. Clever album cover too.
isearcy
Brilliant band. Can't really make a station for them because I am not looking for mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic sonority, major key tonality and melodic string accompanimen t That's not what I like about this band.
Yet ANOTHER example of music the Pandora interwebs station has pointed me to that would have otherwise zooomed beneath radar... going to follow up at the HPL soon, sooner, soonest
megan_cardin
Well, unlike The Cure, The Magnetic Fields have a sense of humor. I agree with the comment below, however. Along with Silver Jews'"Lookou t Mountain, Lookout Sea," "69 Love Songs" has to be my favorite pop album in ten years.
sbholl84
Merritt belongs in a goth band. His voice sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a cavern.
boo-boo-boo- b o o - b o o - b o o - b o o - b o o , then the sen fro hum and the zents ah gah, you en me en the moo! I like this song! You and Me and the Moon!
if you enjoy Susan Anway her first band was V; their hit was"1926". Another unknown Boston female singer covers this song and regenerates it in a more despairing desolated way. Her name is thalia zedek, formerly of Come,LiveSku l l , U z i . Hear this song both ways cuz it is amazing and Susan is a great vocalist.
very cool 90s sound...
robertsmiths h a i r
69 love Songs remains among the finest recorded efforts of the late 20th century. Go buy the whole damn thing right now.
i listen to the gothic archies they are great!
I love them more and more...
I've been listening to The Magnetic Fields for a few years now, and I love them. They are always a staple in my music diet. No matter what mood I'm in I almost always feel like listening to them.
It seems like every song I hear by The Magnetic Fields I end up liking. For me, there are very few bands like that.
check out these bands: bad with names @ myspace/hope youre not ,,,,Aktar AKtar@myspac e . c o m and YOURSELF AND THE AIR @ myspace.com
Badmoviepoli c e , you're slightly mistaken. Stephin Merritt's songs were often included in the show, but he had nothing to do with Polaris which performed other songs and physically appeared in the show. see http://pnp.n o r e c e s s . o r g / m u s i c . h t m l
did you guys know that these guys are the band polaris from pete & pete?
lindsaysm
dive in with 69 love songs.
plaidsam2002
I'm new to the band...but I like what I've heard. Which album should I start with? Any suggestions?
eyeheartcoff e e
tears in my beer, cant see the road through them sad and beautiful sweet sweet song.
I hate this song i dont even now u or any of ur songs....
Balm for the lovelorn.
very good

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