The Magnetic Fields / 69 Love Songs

Fan Post by Thomas Bedenbaugh

Whenever I hear 69 Love Songs, I am instantly reminded of the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I was drawn to it more out of curiosity than anything else.  I couldn’t imagine an artist making an album that was three hours long and worth listening to. In many ways, I still doubt that it can be done well. But the Magnetic Fields’ album proves to be a glorious exception to that rule. I was drawn to so many things about the album, most immediately Stephin Merritt’s deep voice and how good the songs are. Through his voice and lyrics, Merritt appears to be an outside observer of the things he’s talking about, but there is an intimacy to the songs as well. Being a sad twenty year old, I was of course captivated by the feeling of lost love which pervades many of the songs. But with repeated listens my appreciation for the extremely broad scope of the album has only grown.

Listening to Merritt laconically croon about love for three hours is an extremely cathartic experience upon first hearing him and still is today. As you might expect, the album contains 69 songs concerning love all written by Merritt, but the album works so well because it picks apart love in all of its many forms. There are songs of despair and resignation (“All My Little Words”, “The One You Really Love”), heartbreaking vulnerability and tenderness (“Asleep and Dreaming”, “Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing”) and songs which are simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and heartfelt (“The Book of Love”, Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin”, “The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure”). The sound of the album also varies wildly. There’s lush baroque instrumentation, and stripped back moments featuring only a solo guitar or ukulele and chaotic moments (“Experimental Music Love”). Merritt seems to entertain every off-the-wall idea that he can think of and turn it into pure gold.  The sheer amount of material on 69 Love Songs is pretty daunting, but the quality of the vast majority of the album more than makes up for its magnificent size.

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