Favorited ex.fm Songs

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day with The Magnetic Fields

Being single, Valentine's Day doesn't do much for me, but it is a great excuse to listen to The Magnetic Fields' ridiculously ambitious three volume album "69 Love Songs." As frontman Stephen Merritt (quite correctly notes), the album isn't an album about love but rather an album about love songs in all of their many forms. Just from song titles like "I'm Sorry I Love You," "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing," "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," and "I Don't Believe In The Sun" you can already tell the album runs across a wide range of emotions and states related to love in its many different forms.

A few months back, I read the exceptional "Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records" by John Cook. The book proceeds somewhat chronologically through the history of indie label Merge Records, usually while focusing on one band at a time and largely doing so through interviews and pictures. The Magnetic Fields had a chapter focus on them, as did bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Superchunk, and Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Magnetic Fields chapter, the origin of 69 Love Songs is discussed. Apparently Stephen Merritt was drinking by himself at a piano bar when he decided he would write a musical revue called 100 Love Songs that would cover every kind of love song. When he realized that would be too difficult logistically, he decided to do it for an album, and eventually whittled the number further to 69 love songs.

When the idea for 69 Love Songs (at this point including a 76 page full color booklet) was pitched to Merge Records, there was conflicting excitement and worry between the two heads of the label (two members of the band Superchunk). The Magnetic Fields' previous album had sold only 17,000 copies, so trying to produce and actually sell such an ambitious project with a base audience of that size seemed pretty optimistic. As a compromise, Merge offered to sell the discs separately with only 2,500 box sets made, which included all three of the albums and the booklet. However, the idea and finished product garnered a good deal of media attention, and the album (both versions) ended up selling out almost immediately.

The whole story, along with other anecdotes about The Magnetic Fields, Merge, and their many amazing bands is worth the purchase of "Our Noise". The album has also inspired plenty of other creative homages. The picture on the right is one panel from a comic by Huw "Lem" Davies from a site called 69 Love Songs, Illustrated, which has endeavored to have various artists illustrate each of the songs on the album. I chose this one because it has one of my favorite lines "The only stars there really are were shining in your eyes // There is no sun except the one that never shone on other guys // The moon to whom the poets croon has given up and died // Astronomy will have to be revised." The whole thing is an incredibly cool project to look through, and I could spend countless hours doing so. Most of the songs have been completed and they are hoping to finish the project this year. If they ever get the rights to sell this as a physical book, I would love to buy a copy.

In another project, 69 Minnesota musicians each recorded a song from the album. You can actually download the whole thing for free here. I just discovered the project and haven't had a chance to listen yet, but you can't beat free!

Lastly, there is a series of books called "33 1/3" in which authors pick a classic album and discuss it in a short book. There is one about this album (here) that I'm sure would be an interesting read. Another thing to add to my list.

And since we've made it this far without any actual music, here is "The Book Of Love." Enjoy your February 14th.

No comments:

Post a Comment