I saw the Magnetic Fields for the first time last night, at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. And man, it was a holy experience. Ever see a show where, after the applause dies down after each song, you just let out a sigh, in complete bliss? Yeah, there aren’t too many shows like that… but when they happen… you know you’re in the presence of something great, and there’s no other place you’d rather be, then there, right then.
That’s how it was for me last night.
So let me tell you a little about the music of Magnetic Fields…. it’s quirky, it’s poppy, it’s quite strange at times… it’s simple, yet complex… it’s a little country, it’s a little folky, it’s a little new wave, it’s a little Broadway/show-tunes-ish…. it’s a little depressing… it’s a little uplifting… get the point? It’s a little of EVERYTHING GREAT about pop music.
To most fans of indie/underground music, Stephin Merritt (the main songwriter and singer in the band) is a god. There are REALLY good songwriters, and GREAT musical geniuses… and then there’s Stephin Merritt. He’s the cream of the crop, that’s how fuckin’ good this guy is.
Magnetic Fields songs are deceptively simple. I-IV-V pop chord changes, the dominant-tonic relationship (folk/country chord progressions), easy chord shapes in easy keys. Oh but there’s a lot more hiding underneath this simplicity…. I’ve noticed this in all the years I’ve been listening to the Magnetic Fields religiously…. but then as I saw the songs performed last night, and studied what each member of the band was doing… it was just blowing my mind. Such perfect songwriting, structure, arrangement…. not to mention the lyrics and vocal melodies on top of it all.
The Magnetic Fields have released many albums over the past 20 years, and Merritt is extremely prolific… as he has released many albums and EPs outside of Magnetic Fields with the side projects Future Bible Heroes, The Gothic Archies, the 6ths, and also, he’s released a bunch of solo music, as well.
Here is a Spotify playlist of everything Magnetic Fields/Stephin Merritt-related…. it’s pretty complete (full albums and EPs, and soundtracks):
Spotify Playlist for Magnetic Fields / Stephin Merritt
And here is a Spotify playlist of the catchiest Magnetic Fields songs, if you’re a newbie.
Or, just take a listen to these YouTube videos (but chances are, when you hear these few, you’ll want much more… that’s what the Spotify playlists are for. If you don’t have Spotify yet, GET IT!!!
Check out Stephin Merritt’s main website at www.houseoftomorrow.com for all the info about Magnetic Fields and all his other works… also, definitely check out the fantastic documentary about him and Magnetic Fields called Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (link to the official trailer).