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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

1. God Wants Us To Wait

2. Andrew In Drag

3. Your Girlfriend's Face

4. Born For Love

5. I'd Go Anywhere With Hugh

6. Infatuation (With Your Gyration)

7. The Only Boy In Town

8. The Machine In Your Hand

9. Goin' Back To The Country

10. I've Run Away To Join The Fairies

11. The Horrible Party

12. My Husband's Pied-A-Terre

13. I Don't Like Your Tone

14. Quick!

15. All She Cares About Is Mariachi

x

Track List: Realism

1. You Must Be Out Of Your Mind

2. Interlude

3. We Are Having A Hootenanny

4. I Don't Know What To Say

5. The Dolls' Tea Party

6. Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree

7. Walk A Lonely Road

8. Always Already Gone

9. Seduced And Abandoned

10. Better Things

11. Painted Flower

12. The Dada Polka

13. From A Sinking Boat

x

Track List: DISTORTION

1. Three Way

2. California Girls

3. Old Fools

4. Xavier Says

5. Mr. Mistletoe

6. Please Stop Dancing

7. Drive On, Driver

8. Zombie Boy

9. Too Drunk To Dream

10. Till The Bitter End

11. I'll Dream Alone

12. The Nun's Litany

13. Courtesans

x

Track List: I

1. I Die

2. I Don't Believe You

3. I Don't Really Love You Anymore

4. I Looked All Over Town

5. I Thought You Were My Boyfriend

6. I Was Born

7. I Wish I Had An Evil Twin

8. If There's Such A Thing As Love

9. I'm Tongue-Tied

10. In An Operetta

11. Infinitely Late At Night

12. Irma

13. Is This What They Used To Call Love?

14. It's Only Time

x

Track List: 69 Love Songs

Disc 1

1. Absolutely Cuckoo

2. I Don't Believe In The Sun

3. All My Little Words

4. A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

5. Reno Dakota

6. I Don't Want To Get Over You

7. Come Back From San Francisco

8. The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side

9. Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits

10. The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be

11. I Think I Need A New Heart

12. The Book Of Love

13. Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long

14. How F**king Romantic

15. The One You Really Love

16. Punk Love

17. Parades Go By

18. Boa Constrictor

19. A Pretty Girl Is Like ...

20. My Sentimental Melody

21. Nothing Matters When We're Dancing

22. Sweet-Lovin' Man

23. The Things We Did And Didn't Do

Disc 2

1. Roses

2. Love Is Like Jazz

3. When My Boy Walks Down The Street

4. Time Enough For Rocking When We're Old

5. Very Funny

6. Grand Canyon

7. No One Will Ever Love You

8. If You Don't Cry

9. You're My Only Home

10. (Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy

11. My Only Friend

12. Promises Of Eternity

13. World Love

14. Washington, D.C.

15. Long-Forgotten Fairytale

16. Kiss Me Like You Mean It

17. Papa Was A Rodeo

18. Epitaph For My Heart

19. Asleep And Dreaming

20. The Sun Goes Down And The World Goes Dancing

21. The Way You Say Good-Night

22. Abigail, Belle Of Kilronan

23. I Shatter

Disc 3

1. Underwear

2. It's A Crime

3. Busby Berkeley Dreams

4. I'm Sorry I Love You

5. Acoustic Guitar

6. The Death Of Ferdinand De Saussure

7. Love In The Shadows

8. Bitter Tears

9. Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget

10. Yeah! Oh, Yeah!

11. Experimental Music Love

12. Meaningless

13. Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin

14. Queen Of The Savages

15. Blue You

16. I Can't Touch You Anymore

17. Two Kinds Of People

18. How To Say Goodbye

19. The Night You Can't Remember

20. For We Are The King Of The Boudoir

21. Strange Eyes

22. Xylophone Track

23. Zebra

x

Track List: The House Of Tomorrow

1. Young And Insane

2. Technical (You're So)

3. Alien Being

4. Love Goes Home To Paris In The Spring

5. Either You Don't Love Me Or I Don't Love You

x

Track List: Get Lost

1. Famous

2. The Desparate Things You Made Me Do

3. Smoke And Mirrors

4. With Whom To Dance?

5. You And Me And The Moon

6. Don't Look Away

7. Save A Secret For The Moon

8. Why I Cry

9. Love Is Lighter Than Air

10. When You're Old And Lonely

11. The Village In The Morning

12. All The Umbrellas In London

13. The Dreaming Moon

x

Track List: The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees

1. When You Were My Baby

2. The Saddest Story Ever Told

3. Lovers From The Moon

4. Candy

5. Tokyo A Go-Go

6. Summer Lies

7. Old Orchard Beach

8. Jeremy

9. Dancing In Your Eyes

10. Suddenly There Is A Tidal Wave

12. Railroad Boy

13. Smoke Signals

14. You Love To Fail

15. Kings

16. Babies Falling

17. Living In An Abandoned Firehouse With You

18. Tar-Heel Boy

19. Falling In Love With The Wolfboy

20. Josephine

21. 100,000 Fireflies

x

Track List: The Charm Of The Highway Strip

1. Lonely Highway

2. Long Vermont Roads

3. Born On A Train

4. I Have The Moon

5. Two Characters In Search Of A Country Song

6. Crowd Of Drifters

7. Fear Of Trains

8. When The Open Road Is Closing In

9. Sunset City

10. Dust Bowl

x

Track List: Holiday

1. BBC Radioponic Worship

2. Desert Island

3. Deep Sea Diving Suit

4. Strange Powers

5. Torn Green Velvet Eyes

6. The Flowers She Sent & The Flowers She Said She Sent

7. Swinging London

8. In My Secret Place

9. Sad Little Moon

10. The Trouble I've Been Looking For

11. Sugar World

12. All You Ever Do Is Walk Away

13. In My Car

14. Take Ecstasy With Me

x

Track List: The Magnetic Fields

Comments

Report as inappropriate
If YouTube and other social media were present when I was coming-up in the 90s, then I would have been a follower-I am 20 years too late, lol.
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I love this song, too.
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wassup with the lyrics???
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love this song
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The most underated band in the past 20 years
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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.
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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.
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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.
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nalomacs
Gotta love this guy. My favorite track is Queen of the Cannibals
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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.
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tomlugnut
Also love their other alias Future Bible Heroes. Clever album cover too.
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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.
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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
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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.
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sbholl84
Merritt belongs in a goth band. His voice sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a cavern.
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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!
Report as inappropriate
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.
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very cool 90s sound...
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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.
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i listen to the gothic archies they are great!
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I love them more and more...
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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.
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It seems like every song I hear by The Magnetic Fields I end up liking. For me, there are very few bands like that.
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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
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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
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did you guys know that these guys are the band polaris from pete & pete?
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lindsaysm
dive in with 69 love songs.
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plaidsam2002
I'm new to the band...but I like what I've heard. Which album should I start with? Any suggestions?
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eyeheartcoff e e
tears in my beer, cant see the road through them sad and beautiful sweet sweet song.
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I hate this song i dont even now u or any of ur songs....
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Balm for the lovelorn.
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very good

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