RS #465: The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
I thought that was a dirty joke, but no, this album actually contains sixty-nine songs about love.


The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

Release Date: 1999
Previously Owned: No
First Time Listen: Yes

Impressions: I know almost nothing of these guys/this guy. Let’s listen…Quirky, jaunty opener “Absolutely Cuckoo” then leads into the dour, but funny “I Don’t Believe in the Sun.” Kind of cynical, but affecting, interesting instrumentation. Sometimes the sound with rinky-dink keyboards, banjos, and ukuleles seems a bit too indie-cute, like something you’d see in a hipster movie or commercial, but still winning me over. Nifty songs with lots of character, nice small-scaled detail and production — exact opposite of Coldplay. “PANTONE 292” is a lyric in a song! Cheap appeal at my graphic designer heart.  Loads of other funny little references like that scattered throughout the…WAIT. HOLY SHIT, THEY WEREN’T KIDDING ABOUT THE TITLE…I just noticed THERE ARE SIXTY-NINE SONGS ON THIS ALBUM! Chrissakes… I guess I know what I’m doing for the next 3 hours…  Ok, still catchy, eclectic grab bag of love songs. “The Book Of Love,” is pretty heartbreaking and sometimes they sound like Velvet Underground (“Meaningless”) or Erasure (“Promises of Eternity.”) Each pretty short, so that helps. Tons of fodder for mix CDs, dating playlists, etc… Too much to digest at once, probably would best added to iTunes and dispersed throughout shuffle moments (since each song is like 2 minutes long.) Some filler and Stephin Merritt’s flat, limited voice can sometimes wear out its welcome, but then he throws in another singer in the mix to keep things lively, like on “Acoustic Guitar.”  Great economy of songwriting and execution, and like an entire career’s worth of music on one album.

Starred Songs:  “A Chicken With His Head Cut Off” (catchy,) “I Don’t Want To Get Over You” (doubly catchy,) “The Book Of Love,” “I Think I Need A New Heart,” “Papa Was Rodeo”
Sneaky Track: “The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure”
Should this album be on the list? Yes. Kind of pleasantly surprised it’s on here.
Will you listen to this again? Probably not all 3 discs at a time… but it’s perfect for ITunes and semi-ironic indie mix CDs or tapes (with heart.)
Verdict:  Lo-fi, indie masterpiece of tons of simple, catchy little love ditties– all bolstered with a nice mix of sarcasm and heartfelt sentiments.
Rating: ★★★ 3/4 (tough to rate and it might rank higher if it was pared down)