“Seriously smart pop music . . . Self-consciously smart. Aggressively smart. Flamboyant, sentimental, funny, corny. Merritt brought to the public ear the kind of small-scale, crystalline, clever songs that for the most part have not been written since the heyday of musical theater.” —New York Times
Don’t miss this rare Twin Cities stop on a very limited U.S. tour by the Magnetic Fields, led by New York City singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on Friday, October 10, 8 pm. Critically hailed as one of the most significant indie pop bands of the past two decades, the
has built a rabid following for its personal yet poppy dance/noise/synth sound underlying literate lyrics that are ironic, bittersweet, and bitingly humorous. The acoustic evening features songs from the band’s latest release, Distortion, as well as music from their influential 1999 triple album 69 Love Songs, called “an essential guide to loving music” (Guardian, UK). Copresented with the Cedar Cultural Center.
The Magnetic Fields
The Magnetic Fields are led by songwriter-producer-instrumentalist Stephin Merritt, who lives and records in New York City. Adept at computer music programming and production, Merritt records his own albums and plays almost everything on them with help from the band members, including cellist Sam Davol, banjo player/second guitarist John Woo, and percussionist/pianist Claudia Gonson.
Merritt’s first two CDs, The Wayward Bus and Distant Plastic Trees, came out in 1991 and 1992 respectively, with singer Susan Anway, formerly of the early ‘80s Boston punk band V. The album included the early-‘90’s college radio single “100,000 Fireflies,” which first appeared as a single on Harriet Records.
When Anway decided to relocate to Arizona, Merritt became the lead singer for the Magnetic Fields. In the early ‘90s, the band released several vinyl seven-inch singles, including Long Vermont Roads (Harriet Recs) and The House of Tomorrow (Merge).
The Magnetic Fields released six full-length CDs between 1993 and 1999, all on Merge Records. The Charm of the Highway Strip (1994) is an electro-country meditation on life on the open road; Holiday (1994) has a more Euro-pop sound, with songs about escape and nightlife; and Get Lost (1995) has a mixture of styles and moods, including the intimate cabaret sound of With Whom to Dance?
In 1999, the Magnetic Fields released their three-disc set, 69 Love Songs. The album has sold 130,000 copies worldwide, and has brought Merritt’s music to the mainstream eye. In addition to Merritt’s singing, 69 Love Songs also features vocals by pianist Claudia Gonson, LD Beghtol, Dudley Klute, and Shirley Simms. The album also included instrumental contributions from Future Bible Hero Chris Ewen, and novelist Daniel Handler on accordion.
In 2002, the Magnetic Fields signed a worldwide record deal with Nonesuch (Warner Brothers). Their first album for the label, i, was released in May 2004. In January 2008, the band released their latest CD, Distortion, which Merritt describes as “[M]y most commercial record in a way. Some audience members may be completely and immediately turned off, but I figure if you find it too loud, just turn it down and it will sound quite pretty.”
The Forewords are a spoken-word project featuring writers Paul Lukas and Liz Clayton. Lukas created the media project Uni Watch in 1999 as a column on the sports pages of the Village Voice, dedicated to deconstructing the finer points of sports uniforms, documenting the visual history of sports design, and highlighting minutiae fetishism as its own reward. When the Voice’s sports section was scrapped in 2003, the column briefly moved to Slate.com, and in the summer of 2004, it moved to ESPN.com, where it continues to run today. Lukas also maintains a related blog at uniwatchblog.com.
Liz Clayton runs the Web site Not Fooling Anybody (notfoolinganybody.com), which chronicles badly converted and renovated storefronts throughout the country, such as transparently repurposed fast food restaurants, and their blight on the landscape.
Tickets to the Magnetic Fields are $29 and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.