The Magnetic Fields: Realism
The Magnetic Fields’ main man Stephin Merritt claims that Realism is the clear-headed answer to the purposefully excessive fuzz of 2008’s Distortion. Sonically, that’s true. But thematically, Realism’s Big Idea involves expressing adult concerns over music fit for children, then reveling in the disconnect. Merritt and his lineup of guest vocalists sing songs about the lost, the lonely, and the self-obsessed, set to bells, accordions, and an array of pluckable acoustic instruments. Whether Magnetic Fields are excoriating the look-at-me generation in the twinkly “The Dolls’ Tea Party” or evoking fairytale imagery in the haunting love song “Walk A Lonely Road,” the album simplifies modern life into a series of short lessons and stories. Longtime fans will appreciate that Realism sounds more like classic Magnetic Fields than anything Merritt has done lately, but they’ll especially enjoy the pithy bleakness of songs like “Seduced And Abandoned” (with its built-in explanation: “and baby makes two”) or the gleefully smart-aleck Facebook references in “We Are Having A Hootenanny” (in which a chorus of voices urges listeners to “take our personality quiz”). Learning hard truths about how much everything sucks shouldn’t be this much fun.