Stephin Merritt's Verismo

Magnetic Fields


Nonesuch CD

In a sharp turnaround from Magnetic Fields’ previous LP, the boisterous, thoroughly amplified  Distortion, their latest release, Realism, contains a liner note caveat: ‘no synths.’ Realism brings the unplugged aesthetic to Stephin Merritt’s wittily acerbic songs – with stirring results.

“You Must be Out of Your Mind” is a classic example of Merritt’s simultaneously humorous and poignant lyrics – a paean to jilted lovers everywhere, exhorting them to avoid their former partners like the plague. A small sampling, “You think I’ll run, not walk, to you, Why would I want to talk to you? I want you crawling back to me, down on your knees, yeah, Like an appendectomy, sans  anesthesia…” Ouch!

Meanwhile, “We are Having a Hootenanny Now” celebrates the bluegrass/alt-folk signatures employed throughout the album with a rousing verse, rollicking chord changes, and a dialing back of Magnetic Fields’ ironic propensities in favor of a moment of musical jocularity.

But don’t expect Merritt to refrain from tongue-in-cheek witticisms for long. “Everything is One Big Tree” allows for irony to reign supreme once again; complete with a second chorus in German!

Realism is required listening – It’s been in heavy rotation since its arrival here at 218 Augusta St.!


Sadly, the band’s not letting any of this material out for preview, but RCRDLBL has been kind enough to share a couple tracks from their preceding releases.


Serengeti and Polyphonic


Anticon Records


Both from Chicago, rapper Serengeti and DJ Polyphonic invest their second full length recorded collaboration with a plethora of stylistic approaches. Hip hop, electronica, and elements of world music create a hybridized music, melding in varied, often stirring ways.

For example, on “Bon Voyage” there is a triangulated give and take between synthetic elements, a beat template imbued with pitched percussion and interlocking rhythmic figures, and Serengeti’s urban poetics. “My Negativity” matches downtempo electronica with echoing repetitions of the title lyric. “Cleveland” allows Polyphonic to take the lead, creating an evocative synth suite on which Seregeti’s vocals take on a more ornamental role.

The duo doesn’t eschew accessibility – “La Lala” features winsome keyboard riffs and an appealing mixture of sung vocals and clipped rapping. But often, the choices of instrumentation underscore the lyrics’ visceral worldview. For instance, reptilian squawks and an ominous backbeat give “My Patriotism” an appropriately confrontational ambience. Meanwhile, “Playing in Subway Stations” uses a swath of layered rhythms to create an apt sonic approximation of commuters’ hurly burly. Far from prehistoric, Terradactyl is positively cutting edge music-making.

You can hear more of S&P at their MySpace page. RCRDLBL also has a page devoted to the group, including a downloadable remix of the song “2 Times 2.”