Stephin Merritt and his Magnetic Fields are back on tour in support of the group’s new album, Realism. The tour touched down at BAM’s Howard Gillman Opera House for a special Valentine’s Day Eve concert, and you can stream the best four songs from that performance right here.
Before You Press Play
Hometown: New York/Brooklyn
The Facts: Stephin Merritt and Claudia Gonson teamed up in the early 1990s in Boston, Mass. With the help of multi-instrumentalists Sam Davol, John Woo and a harem of frequent guests, the Magnetic Fields gradually became one of the most beloved pop bands of the decade, then backed up the idolatry with 1999’s triple LP masterpiece, 69 Love Songs. Since that time, Merritt and Co. have recorded three albums for Nonesuch Records that avoided the quirky Casio arrangements of their early years on Merge Records. It should be noted that for this installment of “No Cover,” Merritt tossed conventional methods of promotion aside and let us feature our favorite songs from the set, instead of just tracks from the new album.
The Sound: Stripped down and insouciant. Merritt and Gonson traded witticisms all night long, the tail end of which you’ll hear during the intro to “Fear of Trains.” Merritt, in social satirst mode, made repeated claims that the upcoming or previous song was about vampires.
Latest Release: Realism (2010) on Nonesuch Records
He Said, She Said: “Pop hasn’t seen a lyricist of Merritt’s kind and caliber since Cole Porter. Bittersweet, sometimes just bitter, often goofy and sentimental at once, he’s never met a love-song cliché he couldn’t twist inside-out, or make legitimately touching.” – Douglas Wolk, Spin
“[C]alm, elegantly phrased, understatedly sardonic tales of disillusionment. The loftier the dreams, the greater the letdown, an insight he plays for both chuckles and heartache.” – Jon Pareles, New York Times
The Set List:
1. “Acoustic Guitar” featuring Claudia Gonson on lead vocals (from 69 Love Songs)
2. “The Nun’s Litany” featuring Shirley Simms on lead vocals (from Distortion)
3. “All the Umbrellas in London” featuring Stephin Merritt on lead vocals (from Get Lost)
4. “Fear of Trains” featuring Shirley Simms on lead vocals (from The Charm of the Highway Strip)