The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

I’d heard about The Magnetic Fields before. I didn’t know who they were or what they sounded like, but I knew they existed. Well recently I’ve been trying to catch up on a number of bands that I wasn’t familiar with, but had a feeling I should be. The Magnetic Fields were one of them. I jumped on the internet to try and find out which album I should go for first. This usually consists of browsing through reviews and gauging success in attempt to get their best first. Normally I would be rather conservative and get something that reflected the band’s standard sound. Not this time. When I discovered that The Magnetic Fields had released a 3 disc behemoth called 69 Love Songs, I could help but be a little intrigued. It’s weird because generally I would scoff at an album full of love songs and more often than not I get annoyed by albums with close to twenty songs (let alone 69) because they easily drag on and lose impact. Yet I simply couldn’t look past this album and figured it was about time I took a risk. If you haven’t already guessed by now, I went and got it. I couldn’t be more pleased.

The beauty of this album is that it isn’t just 69 songs about love, it’s 69 songs about love songs. The idea behind it was to create a collection of songs that summarises the history of love songs. It spans countless genres and topics as it simultaneously ridicules and honours the art of the love song. This is a concept album I can actually identify with. It challenges the artist, engages the listener and has a genuine message to give. Is it just me or have concept albums become anything with a theme about battling an evil army of robots?

The man behind this album (and The Magnetic Fields in general) is Stephin Merritt. He is my new idol. How anyone could manage to keep my attention for three hours is beyond me. This album truly is a song-writing masterpiece. I suspect its success lies in its variety. As I mentioned before, it uses sounds from all sorts of genres, but it also features a number of guest vocals to help keep it sounding fresh. Nearly every song (I won’t go so far as to say all) has its own special characteristics meaning they each make an individual impression on you. It's amazing how quickly the songs become memorable given the album's length.

One interesting thing I noticed as I listened through is that the songs seem to fall into a number of categories. The definitions of these are undoubtedly crude and very often they’ll overlap, but hopefully this will at least give you an idea of what you’re in for with this album:

Banjo Tropical – Warm, upbeat and lots of fun
I Think I Need A New Heart

Balads – Slow, deep and moving
I Don’t Believe In The Sun

Genre Tributes – Hilarious
Love Is Like Jazz

Female – There’s many subcategories within this but you get the idea
Washington, D.C.

Lyrically focussed – More often than not a little silly
A Chicken With It’s Head Cut Off

Gospel – Ok so there’s only one of these, but this voice is a bit of its own category
Kiss Me Like You Mean It

Experimental – Most could be called experimental but some really stand out
Strange Eyes

Band Tributes – Guess who
When My Boy Walks Down The Street

Normal – About as close as you’ll get to middle ground.
Not That Crazy

The sheer scale of this album is enormous. It’s like a lolly jar that never gets empty. What are you waiting for? Feel the love.

Released: 7/11/99 | Website


oraclemonkey said...

i think you'd enjoy this:

69 Love Songs, part of the "33⅓" Series.

LD Beghtol did the booklet and also corroborated with Merritt on the records. It has an attention to detail that follows on the level of your post, which i enjoyed for a lot of reasons . . . not least of which it reminded me very much of the way i felt when i first discovered the music, years after it had come out originally.

keep sharing, and thanks again.

Peter said...

I'll defintely have to check that out. Glad you liked the post!

Sean said...

wonderful album(s)

Busby Berkeley Dreams is my favourite track

be sure to pick up their album, "I"

Anonymous said...

You'd love "The Charm of the Highway Strip". Elecro-pop country. My favorite Magnetic Fields album.

Mingmeow said...

I'm glad you discovered the magnetic fields! Stephin Merritt is one of the best song writters around, you should pick up The 6ths - Wasp's nest, I've been listening to this alubm since 1995 and I still can't get over how great the songs are. he wrote and produced all the songs, and had a bunch of "indie" artists of the day sing on them

Vintendo said...

That is my Cover of Magnetic Fields - Abigail. Let me know what you think.

Darragh said...

The world is becoming more aware of Merrit every day. 69 Love Songs is one of the greatest albums of the 90s, nay all time! I love "epitaph for my heart". Great post