Not really sure how many folks will be working today, so why not run something we’re all going to love…at least I think we should. It’s a new video from Magnetic Fields, offering another glimpse at what’s to come with 50 Song Memoir. While we’re all pretty used to Stephin’s ukulele, he opts for a song entirely built on synthesizers. His voice is spoken word for the most part, except when he offers that deepened croon during the song’s chorus. I love the fact that Merritt always stretches his songwriting when he takes on these elaborate musical plans. The album is being released by Nonesuch on March 10th…and I’m oh so ready.
Boom. Tuesday is made! This song’s totally different than anything else I’ve gotten in days, and I’m totally in love with Private Victories…at least for the next few hours. It’s got that quirky singer-songwriter sensibility many associate with Magnetic Fields, although I think I hear a bit of Devendra Banhart too in the way the vocal notes are drawn out. Sometimes things get circular in the music that comes out, which is why I really love stuff that takes a step outside. Looking for something familiar, yet refreshing? Look for the self-titled debut to come out on May 6th.
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I’ve been looking all day for something totally weird and out there, and of course, it’s easy to settle with the likes of Jonathan Bree. He’s got this incredibly operatic voice, living in the world somewhere between Majical Cloudz and Magnetic Fields. The musical accompaniment is fairly simple, just carefully playing on some of Bree’s classical influences such as Tchaikovsky. If you ask me, the entirety of his new record, A Little Night Music, is pretty genius stuff, so you’ll want to catch onto it before he’s a household name for everyone. Enjoy the track below.
When you’re given the opportunity to catch Stephin Merritt, you better believe I’m going to jump at the chance. I’ve been obsessed with Stephin’s work for close to two decades, marveling at his wit, and his output. He brought along fellow Magnetic Fields member Sam Davol for accompaniment, packed folks into the Central Presbyterian Church and treated us to an evening of tunes from his catalog, spanning A to Z.
Read on for my thoughts, and for photos from Brian Gray.
Let’s face it, once we wake up on Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a shit show. Tons of things going on, including local bands, touring acts and festivals. So, let’s start off by pointing you to one of the shows I’m most looking forward to, Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields playing at Central Presbyterian Wednesday night. He’s playing with Sam Davol, and I’m honestly not sure what the set will include, though it’s sure to be great. Put his MF work aside and Stephin’s scored plays, written accompanying songs to young adult literature and been involved in various other projects, so he’s got a huge category to draw from…and seeing him at the church will surely be remarkable. And despite his history as a curmudgeon, I’ve always found him quite endearing, sot he intimate setting seems the perfect way to see him. Doors are at 7, and you can grab tickets HERE. Listen to one of my favorite songs below.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/14-Its-Only-Time.mp3]
Okay, so I don’t usually cover covers, or remixes for that matter. But, I’ll change that up today since I’ve got this SISU tune that’s covering “If You Don’t Cry” by the Magnetic Fields, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite acts. SISU is the project of Sandra Vu who’s spent time working with Dum Dum Girls and Boredoms, just to name a few. Her most recent LP, Blood Tears, is currently in stores now, and while it’s not filled with covers, there are several tracks that take the same approach as the tune we present to you today.
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You never really know what you’re going to get with a Tim Cohen listening experience; he’s a man of many faces, wearing various hats in Fresh and Onlys, Tim Cohen and now Magic Trick. After the first few listens to Ruler of the Night (Hardly Art), you can clearly see that he’s put aside that psych-pop hat, just for a moment, crafting something truly remarkable that won’t leave your record player for days or even weeks.
If “Ruler of the Night” is going to be your starting point, it’s the place that first establishes a different approach for Cohen and Magic Trick, now that the band has been solidified. You’ll find lightly strummed guitar and an extremely warm backing vocal; the careful construction of the song demonstrates how far Tim is willing to go on this outing. Immediately following is “Torture,” which just might have the longevity to be one of my tracks of the year. You can see the lineage of this track, and possible connection, to Fresh and Onlys, but the melodic harmonies backing your frontman here see him pushing that sound; he even takes a stab at a soaring vocal himself, to much success.
Ruler of the Night will probably be remembered most for the variance in songwriting that Magic Trick utilizes on the effort. “Sunny” sounds like a San Francisco group taking a stab at writing a Magnetic Fields song, but perhaps that’s just the guitar sound, or the backing vocals. The mood of the song resonates with the title, but it’s juxtaposition to the dark ballad “Next to Nothing” gives you reason to make sure your listening experience revolves around the completed record. While similarities exist overall, each song creates its own bit of character, all dependent upon the accompaniment of the rest of the group.
“Same People” seemingly has its roots in Tim’s fascination with hip-hop, and it plays like a bit of electronic constructionism. Cohen’s vocals barely seem to rest atop of the beats, but it fits in with the mood of the album, especially when the tone is lightened during the chorus. It’s a similar track to the appearance of sampled beats early with “Invisible at Midnight.” The construction of the song definitely revolves around the electronic elements, but like the previously mentioned track, there’s an explosion of brightness that comes with the chorus. Such delicate touches to the construction of each track demonstrate how careful the group has been in finishing off their compositions.
If anything, Ruler of the Night seems to be a statement for Tim Cohen. While Magic Trick might be a side-project, it’s definitely one that forces everyone to take notice of the songwriter as more than just a purveyor of psych-pop. He’s got a solidified group working with him in Magic Trick now, and together they’ve crafted a welcoming album that reveals more to your ear and heart with each careful listen.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/MagicTrick_Torture.mp3]
Download:Magic Trick – Torture [MP3]
It’s strange to think that Hits in the Car is truly the debut record for Strawberry Whiplash; seems like I’ve been posting their singles or B-Sides for years now. Regardless, this collection of thirteen great pop tunes is pretty spot-on for a debut, going between infectious indie pop and noisy janglings; its all worth every minute of time you invest, and one can only suspect that you’ll get more back the more you put in.
Perhaps one of my favorite attributes of this sort of pop is the simplicity of both the entire construction, from song title to the execution of the track itself, it’s no small feat to pull this off as well as Strawberry Whiplash does. Take, for instance, “Everyone’s Texting,” which might seem like sort an arbitrary song, as we’re aware everyone is definitely texting. But, from the slight jangle in the guitar work, to the steadying drum beat, the song is more than just plain commentary; it’s pristine pop.
For me, one of the best things about Hits in the Car is the effortless playfulness that seems to coincide with the group’s work. You can listen to “What Do They Say About Me” and hear that nostalgic swirling guitar, but Sandra’s vocals, purposefully stuttering at points, show both the fun and attention to detail that goes into pop like this. Even smashing hit “Stop Look and Listen” plays with the vocal delivery, which either demonstrates the fun they’re having, or just their reliance on capturing the perfect hook–it all works for me.
Even more promising is some of the slight experimentation that comes into play on the album, showing that Strawberry Whiplash have other places they’re willing to go, musically speaking. “It Came to Nothing” has this great little power-pop swagger to it, as Sandra sings gently atop it all. Or you can listen to the band as they dabble in the noise-rock territory, one of the few songs where Laz takes control of the vocal duties. The other track where he features prominently is “You Make Me Shine,” a song that sounds remarkably like something you’d expect the Magnetic Fields to craft. You’ve got to credit a group that aren’t willing to be pigeon-holed by their own sound, or the masses for that matter.
When it boils down to it all, you can easily write about each one of these songs as great singles, and assuredly that’s what the group intended with the titles Hits in the Car. What’s surprising is that they pulled it off, rather successfully. You can listen to Strawberry Whiplash‘s new effort bits at a time, or as an entire collection, but no matter what, you’re going to find yourself loving it. It’s simple, it’s poppy, it’s experimental; really, it’s just a gem of a record.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/straw05.mp3]
Download:Strawberry Whiplash – Now I Know It’s You [MP3]
Long have I adored Stephin Merritt, in pretty much any capacity. So, today Merge Records announced they’d be selling Obscurities, a collection of Merritt rarities, not just those with his work with the Magnetic Fields. Some of these would stem from his work on the science-fiction he did with Lemony Snicket, while others would be culled from those hard to get releases man MF fans swoon over. Merritt even commented on the songs, telling Sterogum that he thought this might have been the best song he’d ever penned that was meant for a wedding. While I’ll admit, it has its beauty, in my mind the winner will always be “It’s Only Time” from the album, i. Regardless, the world’s always a better place with Merritt’s writing.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Stephin-Merritt-Forever-And-A-Day.mp3]
Download: Stephin Merritt – Forever And A Day [MP3]
What? You still listen to THAT album? That record is so 2004! Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009). Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections. You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites. If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile. Follow the jump for more.