The Magnetic Fields Albums

 

 

The Magnetic fields are the product of one songwriter, Steven Merritt. His contributions to pop music are astronomical, because not only has he written more great songs than anyone in the last 50 years, quite a number of these songs are perfect examples of the “pop song” and continuing its evolution. He is the rare artist that is traditional in style while being innovative in shape and sound. He has just about tried every style of music from.

 

 

 

 

Band Members:

Steven Merritt – Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin

 

 

 

Best Album:

Charm of the Highway Strip and Get Lost

 

 

 

Biggest Influences:

Silver Apples, Jefferson Airplane, The Soft Machine, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Karlheinz Stockhausen

 

 

 

Albums Chronologically:

 

 

1991 – ****     – Distant Plastic Trees

1992 – ****1/2 – The Wayward Bus

1993 – *****  – Holiday

1994 – *****+ – Charm of the Highway Strip

1995 – *****+ – Get Lost

1999 – ****1/2 – 69 Love Songs

2004 – ****       – I

2007 – ***1/2  – Distortion

2010 – ***    – Realism

2012 – ** – Love at the Bottom of the Sea

2017 – ****1/2 – 50 Song Memoir

 

1991

Distant Plastic Trees – 6/8

(.80)

1.railroad boy- 4

2.smoke signals- 4

3.you love to fail- 4

4.kings- 3

5.babies falling- 1

6.living in an aboandoned firehouse with you- 4

7.tar heel boy- 4

8.falling in love with the wolf boy- 2

9.josephine- 2

10.100,000 fireflies- 4

 

 

 

 

1992

The Wayward Bus – 7/8

(.87)

1.when you were my baby- 4

2.the saddest story ever told- 4

3.lovers from the moon- 4 (alien perspective)

4.candy- 4

5.tokyo a go go- 3

6.summer lies- 4

7.old orchid beach- 4

8.jeremy- 4   (undertones sin of pride)

9.dancing in your eyes- 2

10.suddenly there is a title wave- 2

 

 

 

 

1993

Holiday – 8/8

(.94)

1.bbc radiophonic workshop- gf

2.desert island- 4

3.deep sea diving suit- 4

4.strange flowers- 4

5.torn green velvet eyes- 4

6.the flowers she sent and the flowers she said she sent- 3

7.swinging london- 4

8.in my secret place- 4

9.sad little moon- 4

10.the trouble i’ve been looking for- 4

11.sugar world- 4

12.all you ever do is walk away- 4

13.in my car- 2

14.take ecstasy with me- 4

 

 

 

 

1994

The Charm of the Highway Strip – 9/8

 

Review:

The Magnetic Fields have the perfect sound for soft but melodic music. Every song on this album has a very strong melody. Steven Merritt has such a beautiful voice, and his voice gives each of these songs a special power. It really is just a matter of picking your favorite song, because there is not a bad song on here. The album has a tinge of country to it, but at it’s heart it is simple pop music, which is not a bad thing by any means. This album contains nine of the best pop songs ever written, whether they are about traveling (“Born on a Train” and “Long Vermont Roads”), different cities, or ……..vampires. The last song closes the album on a soft note, expressing the fact that the listiner has just listened to a very absorbing experience. If you like music of any kind, get this, which you will also like. -Trevor e.y.

 

 

(.97)

1.lonely highway- 4

2.long vermont roads- 4

3.born on a train- 4

4.i have the moon- 4

5.two characters in search of a country song- 4

6.fear of trains- 4

7.crowd of drifters- 4

8.when the road is closing in- 4

9.sunset city- 4

10.dust bowl- 3

 

 

 

1995

Get Lost – 9/8

(.98)

1.famous- 4

2.the desperate things you made me do- 4

3.smoke and mirrors- 4

4.with whom to dance- 3

5.you and me and the moon- 4

6.don’t look away- 4

7.save a secret for the moon- 4

8.why i cry- 4

9.love is lighter than air- 4

10.when your old and lonely- 4

11.the villiage in the morning- 4

12.all the umbrellas in london- 4

13.the dreaming moon- 4

 

 

 

1999

69 Love Songs – 7/8

 

Wow is the word. What a project to undertake, an album that is sixty nine songs long and three cd’s long. That’s 23 songs per cd, which is massive. The ambition is kind of secret on here, because it never really sounds as if the bad is trying to hard, the songs just drift by for the most part. Melody is once again great, right from the get go there are a string of great songs and this time they are sung by multiple singers, two other guys besides the main singer Merritt and two girls. The alternating singers make the songs easier to remeber, and almost everything on this album works. There are a couple of songs that feel as if they were just thrown in, and some people might say “hey, but there are others that make up for them!”, but really, they could have left about ten of these songs out, or waited longer to release the album and had just as many songs. But even with the few mishaps, this is probably the most ambitious album ever made(that actually worked too) and for sixty plus sweet melodies, we thank the world for the Magnetic Fields.

 

(.86)

Disc 1

(.86)

1.absolutely cuckoo- 4

2.i don’t belive in the sun- 4*

3.all my little words- 4*

4.a chicken with it’s head cut off- 4*

5.reno dakota- 3

6.i don’t want to get over you- 4*

7.come back from san francisco- 4*

8.the luckiest guy on the lower east side- 3

9.let’s pretend we’re bunny rabbits- 2

10.the cactus where your heart should be- 4

11.i think i need a new heart- 4*

12.the book of love- 4*

13.fido, your leash is too long- 4

14.how fu%#ing romantic- 2

15.the one you really love- 4

16.punk love- 2

17.parades go by- 4

18.boa constrictor- 2

19.a pretty girl is like- 3

20.my semtimental melody- 2

21.nothing matters when we’re dancing- 4

22.sweet-lovin’ man- 4*

23.the things we did- 4

Disc 2

(.83)

1.roses- 3

2.love is like jazz- 4

3.when my boy walks down the street- 4*

4.time enough for rocking when we’re old- 4*

5.very funny- 4

6.grand canyon- 4*

7.no one will ever love you- 4*

8.if you don’t cry- 3

9.you’re my only home- 2

10.not that crazy- 3

11.my only friend- 2

12.promises of eternity- 2

13.world of love- 3

14.washington, d.c.- 1

15.long-forgotten fairytale- 3

16.kiss me like you mean it- 3

17.papa was a rodeo- 4*

18.epitaph for my heart- 4*

19.asleep and dreaming- 4

20.the sun goes down and the world goes dancing- 4*

21.the way you say good night- 4

22.abigail, belle of kilronan- 3

23.i shatter- 4*

Disc 3

(.89)

1.underwear- 4*

2.it’s a crime- 3

3.busby berkley dreams- 4*

4.i’m sorry i love you- 2

5.acoustic guitar- 4

6.the death of ferdinand de saussure- 4*

7.love in the shadows- 3

8.bitter tears- 4*

9.wi’ nae wee barin ye’ll me beget- 4

10.yeah! oh, yeah!- 4*

11.experimental music love- gf

12.meaningless- 4*

13.love is like a bottle of gin- 3

14.queen of the savages- 4

15.blue you- 3

16.i can’t touch you anymore- 2

17.two kinds of people- 2

18.how to say goodbye- 4

19.the night you can’t remeber- 4*

20.for we are the king of boudoir- 4

21.strange eyes- 4*

22.xylophone track- 3

23.zebra- 2

 

 

 

2004

I – 6/8

(.77)

1.i die- 4

2.i don’t belive you- 4

3.i don’t really love you anymore- 4

4.i looked all over town- 3

5.i thought you were my boyfreind- 4

6.i was born- 2

7.i wish i had an evil twin- 4

8.if there is such a thing as love- 4

9.i’m tounge tied- 3

10.in an operetta- 3

11.infinatly late at night- 2

12.irma- 2

13.is this what they use to call love- 1

14.it’s only time- 4

 

 

 

2008

Distortion – 5/8

(.65)

1.three way- 2

2.california girls- 3

3.old fools- 4

4.xavier says- 2

5.mr mistletoe- 1

6.please stop dancing- 2

7.drive on driver- 4

8.too drunk to dream- 2

9.till the bitter end- 2

10.i’ll dream alone- 3

11.the nun’s litany- 4*

12.zombie boy- 2

13.courtesans- 3

 

 

 

 

2012

Love at the Bottom of the Ocean – 5/8

(.67)

1.4

2.4

3.4

4.3

5.3

6.1

7.2

8.2

9.2

10.2

 

2017

Fifty Song Memoir – 7/8

 

 

 

Ambitious, over long album projects seem to suit Steven Merritt in his later you career. In the early 1990s, Magnetic Fields mastered the melodic pop album format with albums such as The Wayward Bus, Get Lost, Charm of the Highway Stirp, and Holiday, so he was probably right to try something as ambitious as his 1999 release 69 Love songs, a three-hour long record filled with that many songs that used diverse singers and players to create its own universe. His return to the normal length album format has never successful, and in the last 20 years he failed to come up with anything quite as remarkable as his 90’s work. Hence, we have another huge song collection, 50 Song Memoir, with each song about a year in Merritt’s 50 year life so far.

There are some differences between this record and his previous behemoth collection, as Merritt is the main lead singer on every song this time around. Some would say this makes the album harder to sit through in one sitting, but I would say since it is a concept album about his life, it only makes sense he sings the songs. Taking the last several months to listen to all 5 ten-song albums included here (geez it’s a lot of music!) I have concluded that this is actually a more consistent record than 69 Love songs was, simply because it does not take quite as many risks as that album did, though it does not quite the heights of perfect pop songs such as “Grand Canyon”, “Chicken with Its Head Cut Off”, “Epitaph for my Heart”, etc. There is plenty to love here though, and 50 Song Memoir most importantly WORKS as a concept album. You can feel Merritt’s youthful experiences one the first record, with songs about getting your first pet in “A Cat Called Dionysus”, “They’re Killing Children Over There” (with a great rant about going to see The Jefferson Airplane), and the gorgeous ode to creating music “I Think I’ll Make Another World”. The second record lives in the era of disco and electronic rock music, which obviously had a huge musical effect on Merritt, best represented by songs such as the throwback “Foxx and I”, the Todd Rundgren homage “How to Play the Synthesizer” and the hilarious and catchy “Rock n Roll Will Ruin Your Life”. Every day stories such as “The Blizzard of 1978” (with about twenty cool band name drops) and “No” reflect everyday life in his family and breeze by like they are not important, but they are.

The third disc deals with the troublesome twenties, where songs describe wasting time playing video games in “Dreaming in Tetris”, learning about great authors in “Ethan Frome”, the thrill of exploring sexuality with “Weird Diseases” and “Me and Fred and Dave and Ted”, and being broke all the time in probably the best song on the record “Haven’t Got a Penny”. The forth record tracks his way through the thirties where heartbreak is present on “Lovers Lies” and “I’m Sad”, existential thoughts on “Fathers in the Clouds”, and looking back on youth in one of the great drinking songs of the year, “Be True to Your Bar”. The final album reflects on his more recent forties and the making of this record with the bizarre “Surfin”, the pensive “Big Enough for Both of Us” and “I Wish I had Pictures”, and the pain of moving and growing apart in “You Can Never Go Back to New York”. Merritt runs the gamut from being a folk-rock troubadour like Gordon Lightfoot to an aspiring classical music composer such as Brian Eno, with a whole bunch of ABBA thrown in for good measure. It is influenced by albums like The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks, but its five times as long. It is a challenging listen for music that is friendly sounding, only because Merritt is often very dour and truthful in his songs, and the truth is often rather painful. What Steven Merritt has given his fans is an album that encapsulated not only his entire career but since it starts on the year 1966, an album that sums up the ENTIRE history of melodic pop music. He is the greatest melody maker of our era, and anybody who is aware he exists knows this already.