Concluding the "no-synth trilogy" The Magnetic Fields new release Realism sees a refreshing return to the clean tones and balanced mixing fans enjoyed for the ten years leading up to 2008's Distortion. The Boston quartet's continued synthesizer boycott&mdashwhich, tragically, will end when they enter the studio next&mdashhas succeeded in highlighting Stephin Merritt's comically cynical songwriting skills and earned the band unusual measures of esteem in multiple genres, including such polar opposites as noise pop and folk pop. But while the Fields are versatile enough for the one, Realism stands firmly as proof that the band excels at the other.
Loaded with a colorful variety of strings, including their signature mandolin and ukulele, and lyrics cleverly undulating between bitter and sweet, the only thing to criticize about Realism is the album's somewhat misleading title. Songs like the folk-rocky "We Are Having A Hootenanny" and the eerily childish "The Doll's Tea Party" argue more heavily in favor of surrealism and the playful "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree," with innocent metaphor and half of its lyrics in German, falls affectionately in the category of plain silliness. Of course no Magnetic Fields album would be complete without ironic, often darkly humorous love songs such as "Seduced and Abandoned" and if the band's history of lyrics is any indication of what they perceive to be realism, then perhaps this album turns out to be aptly-titled after all.
The Magnetic Fields have always been an acquired taste, due large in part to Merritt's lyrics which, while addicting to some, are forgettable to others. If you fall into the later category, then Realism won't be any more enjoyable than the rest of the band's library. However, for those in the first category or in no category at all, Realism is either another satisfying addition to the Fields' unique style or an excellent introduction to what is undoubtedly one of indie rock's weirdest, if not most clever, bands.
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MP3:"You Must Be Out Of Your Mind" - Realism
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