Tag Archives: Magnetic Fields

Where can that sandy be?


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.

Realism Early Thoughts

I’m going to start by saying that I never like a Magnetic Fields record through and through when it’s first released. Actually I never like a Magnetic Fields record through and through. Their music seems to be cyclical in nature to me. I’ll listen to a record of theirs and love certain tracks, be indifferent to others, and hate others. Then a few months later, I love different ones, be indifferent to others, and hate others.

This can be traced back to their first song I heard, “The Desperate Things You Made Me Do.” I hated it. Really really hated it. Now I love it, unashamedly love it.

So I’ve listened to Realism, and I find there’s nothing that hugely stands out to me. There’s fun stuff, but none of it really feels like a Magnetic Fields record. There’s songs which feel like they could be from one of the musicals Stephin Merritt has scored, there are others which sound like they could be Gothic Archies songs.

There’s definitely some fun tracks on the record, “We Are Having A Hootenanny,” “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree& “The Dada Polka” are among my favourites. We’ll see how it holds up to a few hundred listens. I wasn’t a huge fan of i (I still can’t stand “I Was Born”) and now it’s among my favourite of Merritt’s work. I also at first really loved much of Distortion, and now I’m indifferent to much of it (though “The Nun’s Litany” is still brilliant).

Are you tired of reading about my thoughts of the Magnetic Fields? Well, screw you, I’m going to see them tomorrow!

Lyrics volume 1

So, I thought I’d start an ongoing journey into why I like lyrics, and lyricists.

We’re going to start with a gentleman named Stephin Merritt who fronts the band The Magnetic Fields. If you’ve known me for more than 15 minutes, you’ve surely heard me espouse the merits of Stephin Merritt. (har!) The Magnetic Fields are pretty fantastic, their music is smart, and funny. They gained much notoriety in 1999 when they released their triple album 69 Love Songs, which lives up perfectly to the name. Since then they’ve released i, an album in which every song starts with the letter ‘i’ and Distortion, a record covered from head to toe in… distortion. The lyric is simple, from the song “I Don’t Believe You” from their album i.

So you’re brilliant, gorgeous, and ampersand after ampersand

I have before been given funny looks when I’ve claimed that this lyric alone proves Merritt’s poetic ability, so I’ll go further into it. In those eight simple words we have so much context to the story. The venom drips off the words (figuratively), there’s so much spite and hatred in those lyrics, and the You who is being sung to is a pompous, self-righteous, vein douche.

We all remember Sloan, they were pretty great. They released an absolutely brilliant album called Between The Bridges in 1999, which is among my favourite records of all time. They also released a record called  Smeared, back in the day when they thought they were a grunge band. That didn’t work out for them, or their record label, but that’s another story for another day.

They’ve been a mainstay for Canadian music for 15+ years now, and introduced the rest of Canada to a shitload of brilliant music, including Thrush Hermit, The Super Friendz, Local Rabbits and many more.

Smeared featured a song called “Median Strip,” it’s not a great song, but it has one of their best lyrics ever.

Point came for you to be Glenn Close to me

There’s really not much to say about this lyric, other than, YES! Perhaps also, “remember when Glenn Close came onto the board? Good times.”

Coming up in volume 2, more music.

Top 50 Albums of the Aughts

1) Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005)
2) The Magnetic Fields – i (2004)
3) Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
4) The Flashing Lights – Sweet Release (2001)
5) Neko Case & Her Boyfriends – Furnace Room Lullaby (2000)
6) The Joel Plaskett Emergency – Down At The Khyber (2001)
7) Julie Doiron – Woke Myself Up (2007)
8) Neil Young – Live At Massey Hall 1971 (2007)
9) Valery Gore – Avalanche To Wandering Bear (2008)
10) God Help The Girl – God Help The Girl (2009)

11) Wilco – A Ghost Is Born (2004)
12) Joel Plaskett – Three (2009)
13) Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (2005)
14) The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns (2008)
15) Valery Gore – Valery Gore (2005)
16) Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire – The Swimming Hour (2001)
17) Elevator – A Taste of Complete Perspective (2000)
18) The Guthries – Off Windmill (2000)
19) The Magnetic Fields – Distorion (2008)
20) Cuff The Duke – Cuff The Duke (2005)

21) Matt Mays – Matt Mays (2002)
22) The Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder (2007)
23) Neko Case – Canadian Amp (2001)
24) Local Rabbits – This Is It, Here We Go (2001)
25) One Hundred Dollars – Forest of Tears (2007)
26) The Guthries – The Guthries (2002)
27) The Joel Plaskett Emergency – Ashtray Rock (2007)
28) Amy Millan – Honey From The Tombs (2006)
29) Elliott Brood – Ambassador (2005)
30) The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000)

31) Rufus Wainwright – Poses (2001)
32) The Superfantastics – Pop-up Book (2007)
33) Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice (2009)
34) George Harrison – Brainwashed (2001)
35) Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
36) Sleater-Kinney – One Beat (2002)
37) Final Fantasy – Has A Good Home (2005)
38) K’naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005)
39) The Bicycles – The Good, The Bad & The Cuddly (2006)
40) Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill (2004)

41) Peter Elkas – Wall of Fire (2007)
42) Gentleman Reg – Darby & Joan (2004)
43) Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (2008)
44) Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
45) k-os – Joyful Rebellion (2004)
46) Matt Murphy – Bring It Back Home: The Life And Hard Times of Guy Terrifico (2004)
47) Cuff The Duke – Life Stories For Minimum Wage (2002)
48) Tom Petty – Highway Companion (2006)
49) Travis – The Boy With No Name (2007)
50) Ruth Minnikin – Marooned And Blue (2004)