The Magnetic Fields’ highly literal 69 Love Songs is the band’s definitive work; over three discs and yes, 69 songs, Stephin Merritt dabbles in every convention and cliché in the love-song-writing book, often deconstructing, rebuilding, and turning each on its head. So it was only mildly surprising when he announced that in celebration of his 50th birthday, he would be releasing 50 Song Memoir, an album featuring a song for each of his 50 years on earth.
The recordings won’t see the light of day until 2017, but this weekend he’s gifting them, in two parts, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He’s bringing along an expanded band and 50 instruments from his personal collection, and the two-night residency breaks up the 50 songs into two parts, with the first 25 performed tonight (12/2), and the back 25 on Saturday (12/3).
Over the Magnetic Fields’ 25-year lifespan, Merrit has dabbled in concepts large (69 Love Songs) and small (House of Tomorrow), gone all-acoustic (Realism) or specifically electric (Distortion), and handled folk (Distant Plastic Trees) as elegantly as electronic pop (The Charm of the Highway Strip). To celebrate his bonanza of all things 50, we’ve collected our own 50 favorite Magnetic Fields moments ranked starting with the best, 1994’s “Strange Powers,” from Holiday. Stream below or on Spotify and keep an ear peeled for 50 Song Memoir next year.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 2, 2016