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The Magnetic Fields

Love at the Bottom of the Sea


Mar 09, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Every overriding theme on a Magnetic Fields record (this one’s all acoustic! This one’s titles all start with “i”!) is a ruse. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what premise frontman Stephin Merritt employs; his songs always sound like The Magnetic Fields. That is usually a very good thing.

Ostensibly, the theme of Love at the Bottom of the Sea is synthesizers. Its songs are driven primarily by the keyboards and drum machines of their landmark records Get Lost and Charm of the Highway Strip. Interestingly, the resulting wash of sound resembles that of 2008’s Distortion, which featured arrangements similar to My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The approach sometimes works here, and sometimes doesn’tas always with Merritt, the song is the thing.

Thankfully, many of the songs on Love are first-rate Magnetic Fields. “Andrew in Drag,” a lament about unrequited love with a soaring chorus, is their best song in years (“There is no hope of love for me, from here on I’ll go stag/the only girl I’ll ever love is Andrew in drag”), and the bouncy “Goin’ Back to the Country,” a dis on city life (“The big city’s too small/I don’t need more than one tree house, but there’s none at all”) is both clever and grounded. Like Merritt’s best songs, these possess humor and a strong point of view, a hard trick to pull off.

At 15 songs and 35 minutes, Love has many scene changes, so the uninteresting songsthe plodding “I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies,” or the amusing but dull “My Husband’s Pied-à-terre”slow its momentum. But the album’s highlights are many, further proving that Stephin Merritt is one of the finest songwriters alive. He simply needed an editor this time around. (

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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June 12th 2013

Get Lost is a landmark Magnetic Fields record? What about Holiday or THE landmark Magnetic Fields record, 69 Love Songs