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The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Magnetic Fields - Realism: A-

  • Stephen Merritt has said this is The Magnetic Fields' "folk album"
  • The band's still satirical after all these years, and is still obsessed with undermining the "pop" formula, a word whose definition seems to change with every Magnetic Fields album
If you've heard anything about this album, you already know the above two points; points that are absolutely right. After more than a decade of having his tongue firmly in his cheek, one would think that Stephen Merritt's muscles would weaken before our ears. But here we are in 2010, and The Magnetic Fields haven't really changed, and, which is probably a bigger accomplishment, they are still funny.

First track, "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" is straightforward wry humor ("You can't go around just saying stuff / Because it's pretty / And I no longer drink enough / To think you're witty") and "The Doll's Tea Party" is your standard critique of upper-middle class ennui ("We won't have it said / We're fashion obsessed / We're just prettier ladies / Than most of the rest"). And, though the subject matter isn't revelatory, the band's parodies of them are still quite enjoyable. I giggled when I heard Merritt murmur "I could throw you off the nearest cliff" at the end of "I Don't Know What to Say" and I smiled at the seemingly random reference to Ho Chi Minh in the German-speaking "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree". The banjo-dominated production, bereft of all distortion and most amplification, sounds great as well, and is never at odds with the, at times, scathing lyrical content.

If you're looking for more than just a facade of sincerity, I would direct you away from Realism and the rest of the Magnetic Fields discography for that matter. However, everyone's inner cynic will love this album, because it is (arguably) healthy to get bogged down in the lovesick every once in a while.


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