Album Review: The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir

Indie moochers return to form with sprawling opus

The 21st century has been difficult for fans of The Magnetic Fields and the group’s deeply droll leader Stephin Merritt. Merritt has persisted in constructing records around gimmicks, and in recent times, the quality of both his humour and his writing entered a seemingly never-ending tailspin, with the nadir being 2012’s Love At The Bottom Of The Sea.

What a pleasure, then, to report that just as Merritt’s slump looked terminal he has turned things around. Conceived to mark his half-century in 2015, 50 Song Memoir is a morose masterpiece in which each composition represents one year of the musician’s life.

Here, he revisits his adventures in a high-school band in ‘The Blizzard Of 78’ and recalls a disastrous attempt to bond with a pet in a ‘A Cat Called Dionysus’.

Superficially, it is true that not a great deal has changed, with Merritt and his regular troupe of players once again employing a palette of shuffling chamber pop.

But the Magnetic Fields are completely recharged, with their creative compass once again pointed in the correct direction.

 

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