69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields never ceases to amaze me. Every time I revisit it (about every month or so these days) I am astounded by the shear quality of the album, even at a full 69 songs there really aren't any duds or missteps. Unfortunately I can't say that about the 2008 release Distortion. There are missteps a plenty on the 13 track LP which overall sounds a bit messy and unfocused. There are several exceptions though, including the heartbreaking single "Drive on Driver" which would slot perfectly into 69 Love Songs while disrupting the successful attempt at juvenile humor inherent in having 69 tracks.*
The lyrics tread pretty common territory as the creative force behind The Magnetic Fields Stephen Merritt recaps the end of days of a relationship in which he seems to have invested a whole lot more than the girl. He waits for her to come and of course she doesn't. Nothing new here, but as is often the case with Merritt, the music is the real attraction as the lavish and distorted arrangement is so multilayered and rich that it takes several listens to just absorb everything that's going on. Merritt double, triple, and quadruple tracks his vocals to contribute to the mournful undertone of the song. As the song winds down following Merritt's final "drive on.." the guitar solo that leads to a quick splash of orchestral string work becomes perhaps the most enjoyable and impressive 45 seconds of music of the year.
*Or maybe I just spend entirely too much time around middle schoolers... seriously if I notice that reading begins or ends on page 69 I assign an extra page just to avoid saying 69 in class.
Now playing: The Magnetic Fields - Drive On, Driver