The Magnetic Fields Get ‘Real’

The Magnetic Fields - RealismThe Magnetic Fields are their own worst enemy. Beginning with 1991’s Distant Plastic Trees and ascending through classic albums Holiday and The Charm of the Highway Strip, the quality of the band’s output finally crescendoed to dizzying heights with 1999’s ambitious, unparalleled opus 69 Love Songs.

The monstrous album was so brilliantly exhaustive, and set the bar so impossibly high, that any followup from the band was destined to feel inconsequential by comparison. Songwriter Stephin Merrit sidestepped that problem by making his post-69 works, 2004’s I and 2008’s Distortion, intentionally microscopic. Whether starting all of his song titles with the same letter or dousing his compositions in uncharacteristic amounts of fuzz, Merrit has relied on thematic gimmicks to help neutralize high expectations.

The just-announced Realism, set for release on January 26th, will continue in that trend. In an abrupt change of course from his previous works, Merrit has foregone electronic instrumentation altogether, opting instead for a more natural sound:

[The album’s] all-acoustic recording lineup featured no electronic instruments, and used untraditional percussion instruments, ranging from tabla to tree leaves. As the album title implies, Realism finds Merritt examining what “real” really means in recorded music, exploring the sincerity (or lack thereof) of folk lyrics and their delivery, along with non-electronic instrumentation, “realistic” production values, and even a plain brown paper sack background used for the album’s artwork.

Available for pre-order at Nonesuch Records, the first 250 buyers will also be lucky enough to receive a hand-silkscreened poster signed by Merritt himself.

Those looking to revisit the legendary 69 Love Songs could hardly pick a better time to do it; in honor of its 10th anniversary, the album is being rereleased on vinyl as a massive six LP set. It might set you back a dollar or two, but it’s a small price to pay for owning one of the greatest albums of all time.

Finally, people in select cities will have the chance to see the band in person during their upcoming tour. Tickets go on sale Friday, but the eager can buy pre-sale tickets right now by joining MusicToday’s Magnetic Fields fan community. We’ve got the tracklist for the new album, as well as the afore-mentioned tour dates, immediately following this colon:

Realism Tracklist:
You Must Be Out of Your Mind
We Are Having a Hootenanny
I Don’t Know What to Say
The Dolls’ Tea Party
Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree
Walk a Lonely Road
Always Already Gone
Seduced and Abandoned
Better Things
Painted Flower
The Dada Polka
From a Sinking Boat

Tour Dates:
2/4 Lisner Auditorium, George Washington Univ. Washington, DC
2/6 Corona Theatre Montreal, QC, CANADA
2/8 Queen Elizabeth Theatre Toronto, ON, CANADA
2/10, 11 Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA
2/13 Howard Gilman Opera House, BAM Brooklyn, NY
2/21, 22 The Aladdin Theater Portland, OR
2/23, 24 Town Hall Seattle Seattle, WA
2/27 The Fox Theater Oakland, CA
3/1 Herbst Theatre San Francisco, CA
3/2 Wilshire Ebell Theatre Los Angeles, CA
3/4 Pabst Theatre Milwaukee, WI
3/5 Buskirk Chumley Theater Bloomington, IN
3/6 The Pageant St. Louis, MO
3/7 Harris Theater, Millennium Park Chicago, IL
3/10, 11 The Town Hall New York, NY
3/19 Manchester UK / Cathedral
3/21 Leamington UK / The Assembly
3/22 London, UK / Barbican Centre
3/24 Stockholm, Sweden / Filadelfiakyrkan
3/25 Oslo, Norway / Rockefeller
3/27 Berlin, Germany / Babylon
3/29 Hamburg, Germany / Fabrik
3/30 Frankfurt, Germany / Mousonturm
3/31 Amsterdam, Netherlands / De Duif

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