Tag Archives: Stephin Merritt

Recollection Volume 36 – Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

Recollection is a project to review my record collection. I will listen to an album I own and review it. The album will be chosen randomly by computron. Today computron chooses…

Album: Love At The Bottom Of The Sea
Artist: The Magnetic Fields
Released: 2012
Format(s) I own it on: Vinyl

Latbots_largeSomeone once described modern Magnetic Fields as a parody of Stephin Merritt’s songwriting style. This might be accurate. However, this doesn’t sum up the records completely. Love At The Bottom Of The Sea has some really good songs on it, and though it might be a bit over the top compared to 69 Love Songs, they’re worth the price of admission.

Much like most of Merritt’s work, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is filled with love songs. As usual they’re not the most traditional love songs. Songs of mariticide, frustrating love triangles, unfaithfulness, one’s inability to be tied down, being trapped in a swinger’s party, and many more topics.

The album is sung mostly by Shirley Simms, with Merritt and Claudia Gonson. I don’t know if it was done with purpose, but it seems Simms sings the best songs on the record. Simms has a natural country twang with shows through in “Goin’ Back to the Country.” She would have been a huge asset on the earlier album The Charm of the Highway Strip.

Highlights

Merritt begins the record with “God Wants Us To Wait,” a brief song about waiting until marriage. I assume it’s sung tongue-in-cheek, I take it that way, but you can really read whatever you wish to in it. Shirley Simms sings the song rather earnestly.

What rhymes with “drag?” Merritt answers that question with “Andrew In Drag” by using as many rhymes for drag as he can in one song. Bag, brag, fag, gag, jag, shag, stag, wag. It’s a fun song, but it’s also really sad. “Andrew In Drag” is about a man falling in love with his best friend in drag… sadly he only did it as a gag. He’ll never know love again, now that he’s met Andrew in drag.

“Quick” is probably my favourite song on the album. Another song sung by Simms, this time about giving someone one last chance before heading out the door. It’s one of Merritt’s best.

Lowlights

“I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies” is terrible. Combined with the dreadful melody and the frequent bursts of electronic noise that jolts the listener out of the song. The song would be better suited to a Gothic Archies record.

Speaking of another Merritt band, The Gothic Archies, “All She Cares About Is Mariachi” feels more like it would fit into a third Merritt band, Future Bible Heroes. Sadly it’s a rather boring song.

Men 28.625 (80%) | Women 7.375 (20%)
CD: 20.5 (57%) | Vinyl: 12.5 (35%) | Digital: 0 (0%) | 7″: 2 (6%) | Box: 1 (3%)
1960s: 4 (11%) | 1970s: 2 (6%) | 1980s: 1 (3%) | 1990s: 11 (31%) | 2000s: 16 (44%) | 2010s: 2 (3%)
Canada 10.8 (30%) | USA 16.2 (45%) | UK 7 (19%) | NZ 1 (3%) | FR 1 (3%)
Ontario 4 (36%) | Quebec 1 (9%) | Nova Scotia 4 (36%) | New Brunswick 1 (9%) | Manitoba 0 (0%) | British Columbia 0 (0%) | Prince Edward Island 0 (0%)
Saskatchewan 0 (0%) | Alberta 0 (0%) | Newfoundland and Labrador 1 (9%) | Northwest Territories 0 (0%) | Yukon 0 (0%) | Nunavut 0 (0%)

Recollection Volume 13 – The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Recollection is a project to review my record collection. I will listen to an album I own and review it. The album will be chosen randomly by computron. Today computron chooses… 

Album: The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events
Artist: The Gothic Archies
Released: 2006
Format(s) I own it on: CD

tragictreasury_largeWe are the Gothic Archies, death, tentacles, and pip.

Took longer than I expected to get to a Stephin Merritt project. The Gothic Archies is Merritt’s project of depressing bubblegum pop. The Tragic Treasury is a collection of songs created by The Gothic Archies for the young adult novels A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each audio book in the series began with a song by The Gothic Archies. 

Of the fifteen songs, thirteen were previously released on audio books. The other two include a song introducing the band aptly titled “We Are The Gothic Archies.” The other was an alternative song for one of the books.

You could count it as a comedic record if you want. I guess in many ways it is. While the lyrics are often humorous, it’s mostly just great music. Merritt is a master songwriter and it shows most when he has a theme, no matter how loose, to play with. Whether he’s writing 69 Love Songs, a record about the open road The Charm Of The Highway Strip,  Eternal Youth, or songs beginning with the letter i.

Highlights

The opening track “Scream And Run Away” is a perfect song about the book, but it’s actually a really fun and awesome song altogether. “Scream, scream, scream and run away. Run run run run run run run run or die die die die die die die die die die die.” These books are for children?

“Shipwrecked,” the song from the last book is probably my favourite. The tale of a man who purposely kills a boat’s crew to leave him and his love shipwrecked together… again.

Another favourite is “Walking My Gargoyle,” which tells the story of a monster who has a pet gargoyle. “Most people scream, most of the time, but always when I’m walking my gargoyle.”

Lowlights

“Dreary, Dreary” and “This Abyss” are amongst the tracks I would most regularly skip on this album. They’re a bit too slow and plodding.

Men 10.25 (79%) | Women 2.75 (21%)
Canada 4.8 (37%) | USA 6.53 (50%) | UK 1.66 (13%)
Ontario 1 (20%) | Quebec 0 (0%) | Nova Scotia2 (40%) | New Brunswick 1 (20%) | Manitoba 0 (0%) | British Columbia 0 (0%) | Prince Edward Island 0 (0%) | Saskatchewan 0 (0%) | Alberta 0 (0%) | Newfoundland and Labrador 1 (20%)
Northwest Territories 0 (0%) | Yukon 0 (0%) | Nunavut 0 (0%)

 

 

iPhone Ringtones

Time for a non-Rocktober post.

I’ve made some ringtones for my iPhone, and I thought I’d share. Yes I’m infringing on some copyright with these, but I hope the BBC, Nintendo, Stephin Merritt, Apple, and the TTC will forgive me.

The Magnetic Fields – “BBC Radiophonic Workshop”
Doctor Who Theme (Christopher Eccleston era)
Doctor Who Theme (William Hartnell era) 
Super Mario Bros. coin sound
The Magnetic Fields – “One April Day”
Sloan – “Cheap Champaign”
Tetris music
TTC door chime 

Stephin Merritt is amazing

Stephin Merritt at one point wrote for Time Out New York. They recently posted all his works online.

Aluminum Tunes is not a new Stereolab album but two CDs of B-sides and outtakes and such. Three or four years ago, Stereolab was an indie-rock group with intentionally unintelligible singing, obscure words drawn from Marxist tracts, really long songs consisting of one chord, Velvet Underground shtick, lackluster playing skills and plenty of charm. Nowadays, it still has the charm part, but indie rock is dead—Stereolab helped kill it. Now its music is much better.

Stephin reviews Stereolab.

That has to be the greatest summary of Stereolab I’ve ever read.1 Merritt also sums up McCartney’s classic Flaming Pie with “All around, this album is better than most.” Straight forward, to the point, and brutally honest. Or when reviewing McCartney’s former bandmate, Ringo Starr, Merritt says “his version of Lennon-McCartney’s “Love Me Do” only points up the insipid lyrics.”

Among my favourite is his biting review of a ’90s Joni Mitchell album, in which he says “she’s still doing that jazz thing and wondering why she doesn’t get enough respect while working in a combination of two contradictory dead languages: Singer-Songwriter and Jazz.”

Check it out. Laughs are to be had.

  1. I love Stereolab. []

Under more stars than there are prostitutes in Thailand…

On Friday night, I went to my first ever Hot Docs screening. Yes, I had never before been to Hot Docs after living in Toronto(ish) for 28 years. How long? 28 years.1 I lost my Hot Docs virginity to Strange Powers, a film about Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields. For those who don’t know who Stephin Merritt is, or who the Magnetic Fields are, you’re obviously new to my blog, and my life.2 The Magnetic Fields are one of the most ambitious pop artists who are best known for their monumentous3 triple album project 69 Love Songs. Stephin Merritt is the band’s songwriter, leader, visionary, and in all honesty, it’s only member.4

The filmmakers said that they wanted to present a portrait of an artist, and I think they achieved this. They show Merritt’s humour, and his charm, while also show the immensely private man, who hides from fame. They touch on his notoriety as being a “difficult interview,” while also discuss his strange relationship with drummer/pianist/manager/fag hag Claudia Gonson.

The film was shot over ten years, which I assume dates it to just after the release of 69 Love Songs. It ends before the recording and release of their latest record, Realism. In those years between the band released a paltry two albums, i & Distortion. However, Merritt also released The Tragic Treasury by The Gothic Archies, I’m Lonely (And I Love It) and Eternal Youth by Future Bible Heroes. Merritt’s also provided the soundtrack to two films Pieces of April and Eban and Charley, and released a compilation of songs from the scores of three Chen Shi-Zheng musicals, The Orphan of Zhao, My Life as a Fairy Tale, and Peach Blossom Fan. Well, that’s a productive decade. Yet oddly, here’s a documentary in which the only time the words “Gothic Archies” is ever heard is never explained, and his musicals and soundtracks aren’t mentioned. During the film, they speak with Chris Ewen, he’s presented as Merritt’s ex-boyfriend5 but is given a caption as “Future Bible Heroes.” The film never explains what a Future Bible Hero is, nor does it attempt to. This is a huge amount of artistic output to completely ignore.

The film lacks a timeline or narrative, and so the audience doesn’t get a sense of the history of the band. Nor what happened over that ten years of filming. Other than recording, touring, and Stephin moving to LA. I think because of this, the audience must be initiated into the cult-of-Stephin beforehand to get much out of this film.

As someone who is, I can tell you, it shows an interesting portrayal of Merritt, but probably best to start with a listen to 69 Love Songs.

  1. Oddly, this is also the amount of time in which George has been singing Beethoven. []
  2. Hi, I’m Adam. I’m a geek, who likes music and film. I listen to The Magnetic Fields. []
  3. Why isn’t this word in Apple’s dictionary? []
  4. Sorry John, Sam, & Claudia. []
  5. Something I had never known. []

Realism – In Depth

Some months ago, The Magnetic Fields released a new record called Realism. I briefly wrote about it, with the intention to go back and write something more in depth. We’ve now come to that point.

Song: You Must Be Out Of Your Mind
Sung by: Stephin Merritt & Claudia Gonson
Favourite lyric: “I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty.”

You think I’ll run, not walk to you
Why would I want to talk to you?
I want you crawling back to me
Down on your knees, yeah
Like an appendectomy
Sans anesthesia

If you think you can leave the past behind
You must be out of your mind
If you think you can simply press rewind
You must be out of your mind, son
You must be out of your mind

You want what you turned off turned on
You call it sunset, now it’s dawn
You can’t go round just saying stuff
Because it’s pretty
And I no longer drink enough
To think you’re witty…

You want to kindle that old flame
I don’t remember your real name
It must be something scandalous
Lurks in your shallows
If you need a Santa Claus
To buy your gallows…

Stephin and co. introduce the audience to this new Magnetic Fields record with “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind.” A love song, by Stephin Merritt, who would’ve thought? A bitter love song, by Stephin Merritt, SHOCKING! John Woo’s guitar work is fabulous, he creates this very textured layer to the song which accents it perfectly, while Sam Davol’s cello is the sonic thrust of the song. The song is layered heavily with instrumentation, that months later you’ll still be discovering.

This is as good as it gets, and with Stephin Merritt, that’s perfection.

Song: Interlude
Sung by: Shirley Simms
Favourite lyric: “He will fall in love, poor fellow.”

The moon-blue rays of magical light
Festoon her face this beautiful night
The moon her only lover
But soon even that will be over

So they climb high
In the violet sky
And they dance
And he’ll whisper
All his mysteries to her
As they dance

He will fall
In love,
Poor fellow
Just when all
Above
Turns yellow
And the dawn breaks his heart…

Someone loving the moon in a Stephin Merritt song?!?!? Let’s start by saying that Shirley Simms is the perfect vocalist to sing this song. I can’t imagine anyone better suited for it. Sadly, It’s not a very good song. It’s a bit too airy.

Song: We Are Having A Hootenanny
Sung by: Stephin, et al
Favourite lyric:  “If’n”

We are havin’ a hootenanny now
We are havin’ a hootenanny now
Do-si-do down
To our hoedown
Our rootin’-tootin’ hootenanny
Havin’ a hootenanny now

Come and take our personality quiz
Come and take our personality quiz
Get the lowdown
On our hoedown
We’ll tell you where it is,
If’n you take our personality quiz

There’ll be somebody there who understands
There’ll be somebody there who understands
They won’t eat you
They will greet you
And gaze into your eyes and
There’ll be somebody there who understands

We are havin’ a hootenanny now…

So what can you say about this song? It’s bloody brilliant. From rising piano intro, to the drawn out Zs, to the accordion1, to the fabulous double-tracked banjo. Okay, so this isn’t the greatest song in the world, but it’s a fun romp.

Song: I Don’t Know What To Say
Sung by: Stephin
Favourite lyric: “I could say I want you, that would be a bore. Maybe in a font you haven’t seen before.”

I don’t know what to say…

I could say I want you,
That would be a bore
Maybe in a font you
Haven’t seen before
I could say I’ll haunt you
Till your dying day
I could tease and taunt you,
But what would I say?

See, I don’t know what to say…

I could say I crave you
Still, you little brat
I could rant and rave, you
Know I can do that
I could say I gave you
Everything I have
I could say I’ll save you
You might think me mad

So I don’t know what to say…

I could try and lead you
Down the garden path
I could say I’ll feed you
You can do the math
I could say I need you
Offer you a ring
I’ll be guaranteed you
Don’t believe a thing…

I could try and shove you
Off the nearest cliff
I could say I lo…

I don’t know what to say about this song. There are bits and pieces of it that I really like, and bits that… not so much. I don’t like the sudden fade out at the end, I much prefer the sudden stop when performed live, but honestly, why bother? What’s the point of this. I can’t see Merritt fading out mid-verse without a specific reason, but I don’t know what it is. Do you? Is he singing about the endless cycle of torture in a relationship? I do enjoy Simms’ autoharp.

Song: The Dolls’ Tea Party
Sung by: Claudia Gonson
Favourite lyric: “The cakes are why everyone’s there. They’re not dietetic in any way.”

At the dolls’ tea part we fritter away
The long afternoon of a long summer day
With extended pinkies and pink cloisonné
Cups and saucers and pots and a Liberty tray
That’s why we take our tea
At the dolls’ tea party

At the dolls’ tea party we twitter along
We prattle and tattle on who’s done whom wrong
On who’s in, who’s out, and who’s the best at mah-jongg
Oh, and where to buy fabulous things for a song
That’s why we take our tea
At the dolls’ tea party

But the cakes!
Ah, the cakes are why
Everyone’s there
They’re not dietetic in any way
Dare
To try one and you’ll have a few pounds to spare
Try another one
What do you care?

At the dolls’ we’re all in our glittering best
There will be a test
On who’s best
And worst dressed
But we won’t have it said we’re fashion-obsessed
We’re just prettier ladies than most of the rest
That’s why we take our tea
At the dolls’ tea party.

Oddly enough, I think Merritt’s baritone would be better to suit this song. Gonson sings this very prim and proper, where as I think Merritt could sing this better with more earnest and emotional depth.

Song: Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree
Sung by: Stephin, and big burly German men
Favourite lyric: “Nein, vielleicht ist Allest nicht ein Traum. Ist Alles ein Albtraum? Nicht, nicht! Alles ist ein großer Tannenbaum. Rotierend im Weltraumgeschichte. La la la la la la. La la la la la la.”

Everything is one big Christmas tree
All got up with lights and candy
All the world is turning prettily
Everyone’s awaiting Sandy
Stop mumbling and cheer up
Put down the book, pick beer up

Why sit in your dark and lonely room?
Must your every word be sincere?
Here’s a vial of laughing gas perfume
See that people smile when you’re near
If they don’t like you screw them
Don’t leave your fortune to them

Nein, vielleicht ist Allest nicht ein Traum
Ist Alles ein Albtraum? Nicht, nicht!
Alles ist ein großer Tannenbaum
Rotierend im Weltraumgeschichte
La la la la la la
La la la la la la

Everything is one big Christmas tree
All got up with lights and candy
All the world is turning prettily
Everyone’s awaiting sandy
Where can that Sandy be?…

I’m not very fond of Christmas, you know, that whole, not being Christian thing. However, I dare anyone not to like this song. A group of what can only be big burly German men singing “la la la la la la” happily is one of life’s great joys. Where can that Sandy be?2

Song: Walk A Lonely Road
Sung by: Stephin with Claudia
Favourite lyric:

When I was a little boy
Way out in the the wood
I had neither friend nor toy
Never knew I could
When I found this lonely road
Off I walked for good
When I was a little boy
Way out in the wood

Walk a lonely road with me
I will walk with you
Half as lonely we will be
When we walk as two
If the road goes straight uphill
We’ll admire the view
Walk a lonely road with me
I will walk with you

When I was a little girl
On the lonesome plain
I had neither pal nor pearl
Mostly wind and rain
One day I set out along
A little winding lane
When I was a little girl
On the lonesome plain…

This song really does nothing for me. I do like Stephin’s voice in it, however.

Song: Always Already Gone
Sung by: Shirley
Favourite lyric: You took all the freedom you needed from me.

I tried hard to keep you
I needn’t have tried
It seems you’d decided
When did you decide?
So this is the last time
I cry in the dawn
It seems you were always
Always already gone

You never were happy
You had to be free
You took all the freedom
You needed from me
Then you and your freedom
Flew thither and yon
You’re free to be always
Always already gone

I couldn’t have dreamed you
But I might as well
You leave me with only
A story to tell
But at the beginning
Our story is done
Because you were always
Always already gone…

I think this song perfectly demonstrates my theory that Shirley Simms sings like a robot. Yet it works really well for this song. Much like many Stephin Merritt songs, it’s about the destruction of a relationship. There’s a lovely little banjo bit between the second and third verses. Overall, a really pretty, and depressing song. Not Merritt’s best work, but damn good. Wouldn’t be too out of place on 69 Love Songs.

Song: Seduced and Abandoned
Sung by: Stephin
Favourite lyric:  “Seduced with a grin, I was taken all in; taken in sin and in shame.”

Seduced and abandoned and baby makes two,
Baby, abandoned by you
Seduced and abandoned and what can I do?
I think I might drink a few

Seduced with a grin,
I was taken all in
Taken in sin
And in shame
Seduced by a smile,
I walked down the aisle,
Then waited awhile;
No one came…

Abandoned to weep
I collapsed in a heap,
Dutifully sleep-
ing all day
Abandoned to die
I did nothing but cry
In my one-ply
Negligee…

Yes, I think I might drink a few
And maybe the baby will too.

This seems to be part two of “The Night You Can’t Remember” from 69 Love Songs. The tale of a woman, left pregnant and alone by her lover. I’ve never heard of thin negligee being referred to as “one-ply” but I do like that. It’s a very visual adjective. This is probably my favourite song on the album. I can listen to it over and over again. Sonically, it reminds me of “In An Operetta” from i, but I feel it’s lyrically superior. Maybe it’s the harpsichord.

Song: Better Things
Sung by: Stephin
Favourite lyric: “The wolfboy is adorable.”

On winter nights the mermaid sings,
“I was made for better things
Better things, dearie,
Better things”

In early spring the ghost princess
Goes haunting in her pretty dress
Pretty dress, your majesty,
Pretty dress

And I have heard
The singing of real birds
Not those absurd
Birds that simply everybody’s heard
Real birds

In summer when the moon is full
The wolfboy is adorable
Adorable, you’re
Adorable

I have observed
The winging of real birds
Not those reserved
Birds that simply everyone’s observed
Real birds

This is really pretty, and heavy on autoharp. Not his greatest lyrical achievement, but an enjoyable song.

Song: Painted Flower
Sung by: Shirley
Favourite lyric: “A frozen bloom left alone in some forgotten room.”

I’m just a painted flower on silk brocade
Left in the sun I will slowly fade
Fade to nothing like I’d never been made
Like I’d never been made

I’m just a painted flower, a frozen bloom
Left alone in some forgotten room
A fly in amber, I pose in my tomb
I pose in my tomb

I’m only drops of paint in a silver frame
Without an aim and without a name
Gathering dust, every day just the same
Every day just the same.

I like this song, quite a bit. A rather bleak and depressing image. This could be lifted from one of the musicals Merritt has written the music for.

Song: The Dada Polka
Sung by: Stephin
Favourite lyric: “Gyrate like a gyroscope, collide like a kaleidoscope.”

People of Earth, when you dance
Dance the Dada Polka
Life is only a dream
When in the mood for romance
Dance the Dada Polka
Be as cute as you seem

Gyrate like a gyroscope,
Collide like a kaleidoscope
Freeze!
Do something-anything-
Do something, please

People of Earth, don’t just stand
There, the Dada Polka
Is as fun as it sounds
Move hips and hands when the band
Plays the Dada Polka
You may lose a few pounds

Gyrate like a gyroscope,
Collide like a kaleidoscope
Change!
Do something-anything-
Do something strange

People of Mars, you too must
Do the Dada Polka
It’s the meaning of life
Fill any partner with lust?
Do the Dada Polka
Soon there’ll be a new wife

Gyrate like a gyroscope,
Collide like a kaleidoscope, do
Do something-anything-
Do something blue
Do something-anything-
Do something a little out of
character, it won’t kill you
Do something-anything-
Do something true.

How can you not love this addictively fun song? It’s got a flavour of ’50s rock and roll, while still having Merritt’s signature sound.

Song: From A Sinking Boat
Sung by: Stephin
Favourite lyric: the entire song.

In the middle of the night, 
With a sickening sound 
This little boat 
Ran aground 
The mast is twisted, the hull is breached 
One high tide and it’ll be beached 

If I could walk, I’d walk away 
But I haven’t slept since yesterday 
The ink is sinking, the page is blurred 
And I can’t read a single word 
But know that I love you, 
Know that I wrote 
My last words to you 
From a sinking boat.

Not the most exciting song, you might even call it boring. Musically, it’s on one short loop, but lyrically, Merritt tells a story in a few short lines.

  1. Played by Daniel Handler… aka LEMONY SNICKET! OMG! []
  2. Psst, Stephin, Santa Claus is fictional; he’s not going to come. []

Linky Link

  • Above, NPR inverview Stephin Merritt & Claudia Gonson.
  • Carrie Brownstein, will you marry me? Okay, we’ve never met, and it would be slightly awkward that my best friend has the same first name as me, and his wife has the same first name as you, but does that really matter? Your love of The Magnetic Fields is enough for me. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, your amazingness as part of Sleater-Kinney doesn’t hurt.
  • With a Gold in hand for Canada, 3000km away in the country’s largest city (and my city), the CN Tower goes gold.
  • Mechanical Forest Sound posts a new Gentleman Reg song. Thanks Joe!
  • Apparently Canadians handle their sticks with their left hands. Though I’ve never played hockey, I do hold a golf club and baseball bat left handed. (Yoinked from TIMMMMAAAAY)
  • A video illustrating Microsoft’s creative process. Best comment, “I will never think about MS Paint the same way.”
  • Who has a few million to spare? (via the article’s author… HI KATE!)

Linky Link

  • Happy Family Day!
  • CityTV has an article on Eric Warner of We Are Busy Bodies. (via Jen Polk, via The Meligrove Band)
  • Mechanical Forest Sound records the highlight of last night’s Wavelength 500… Barcelona Pavilion.
  • Steregum reviews The Magnetic Fields at BAM.
  • Jian Ghomeshi (did I spell that right?) got a lot of flack last night, and though I’m not a fan, he does put some good musicians on his show. See below…

Linky Link

Where can that sandy be?

OMG! OMG! OMG!

Walking into the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and hearing “Robot Ponies” is slightly strange. I got to the venue partway through Laura Barrett’s set, and the sound was damned good, though you could hear the nerves in Laura’s voice, and more so her calming herself before playing. She played well, and had Ajay Mehra, Randy Lee & Dana Snell playing with her (the American dates of the tour are without Lee & Snell). After her set, I did hear some audience members commenting on how lovely Barrett’s voice is. No matter what, it’ll always be strange to be at a Laura Barrett show where there’s more than a couple metres distance between us, but I’m sure she’ll be playing some tiny venues like Sneaky Dee’s soon.

Then I visited merch. They sold out of Realism on vinyl, wtf?!?! They have yet to receive the cast recording of Coraline, sigh. I ended up buying three pins.

Stephin. Stephin. Umm, wow.

Stephin tortured the audience by introducing the first song as “100,000 Fireflies” and then proceeded to play “Lindy-Lou” by The 6th. Well, I guess that answered my question, would he play non-Magnetic Fields songs, the answer is yes. The Magnetic Fields on this tour are Stephin Merritt (obviously, playing what I don’t think is a ukelele, but is a lute-like instrument), Shirley Simms (autoharp), Claudia Gonson (keys), John Woo (guitar) and Sam Davol (cello).

Gonson serenaded the audience with “Acoustic Guitar” from 69 Love Songs, through a horrible cold, and also duetted with Merritt on “Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget,” also from 69 Love Songs. Simms sang the tale of a woman’s spiral into debauchery, “The Nun’s Litany” from Distortion, and most surprisingly, “Born On A Train” from The Charm Of The Highway Strip, one of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite albums. Usually sung by Merritt, but Simms’ mechanical twang seemed to be a perfect match to the country song.

I was completely taken aback when Merritt said “This one’s called ‘You And Me And The Moon’ from our albums Get Lost.” This is perhaps one of my favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and to hear them play an acoustic version of this gay-dance-pop anthem was perfection. A close second, though was “All The Umbrellas In London” from the same record.

They came out for a short encore, and played “I’m Tongue-Tied” from i; at which point Natalia turned to me, and said, “Finally a song I know.” I guess that’s what you get if you go to a show of a band who’s been playing for 20 years, and my iTunes library (which isn’t complete) has 350 songs. They closed with “100,000 Fireflies,” bringing the show full circle. Merritt sung this one, which on Distant Plastic Trees was sung by Susan Anway.

I could say a lot more, I could talk about how Merritt commenting that all the songs could be called “I Don’t Really Love You Anymore” was pure comic gold, or how instrumentally they were incredible.

I could also talk about the imperfections, like Merritt’s voice being pitchy, Gonson’s voice breaking, or the great amount of silence, but who cares? That would be nitpicking and it was one of the greatest nights in my memory of rock and roll… I’m old, and have been to a lot of shows.

Life is good. Thank you Magnetic Fields, thank you Laura Barrett.