The Magnetic Fields - The Charm Of The Highway Strip
Label: Merge Records
Format: Vinyl, LP, New
Originally released in 1994 on CD only, this LP re-issue makes this album available on vinyl (180 gram) for the first time ever.
A1 Lonely Highway
A2 Long Vermont Roads
A3 Born On A Train
A4 I Have The Moon
A5 Two Characters In Search Of A Country Song
B1 Crowd Of Drifters
B2 Fear Of Trains
B3 When The Open Road Is Closing In
B4 Sunset City
B5 Dust Bowl
I first heard this album about eight years ago, and I have listened to it several times a month since. It just doesn't get old--the more I hear it, the more remarkable it is. Many people have commented on Merritt's eclectic instrumentation, which is indeed striking. But the really fantastic thing about his music is just how great he is at turning out a tune. The instrumentations are novel, but not novelties, and the tight melodies have the charm and stay-in-your-headness of folk tunes. Stephin Merritt is just so damned smart--and not in a look-at-me-I'm-so-deep or hipster way, but in the understated, constant, prolific manner that makes for lasting songwriting. His lyrics are also smart and moving, even when, as with the 69 Love Songs trio, he insists on claiming they're ironic or meta. He's a master at wry, pithy little lines that stick with you a lot more strongly than most of the abstract, self-congratulatory crap that passes for poetry these days.
I've listened to each Magnetic Fields album several times over--I'm completely addicted to them, in fact--and while there's not a bad one in the bunch, Charm of the Highway Strip does stand out as the most consistently fantastic and aesthetically unified project.
Magnetic Fields - Born On a Train
(Live Cambridge 2004)
Mr. Merrit is an unbelievable artist. Hopefully he will never be realized by the public of the genius that he is. This man can write.
The Magnetic Fields - Long Vermont Roads
Theatre Corona, Montreal, Quebec (Feb. 6, 2010)
This song has always captured me. Not sure how else to put it.