THE MAGNETIC FIELDS
The Magnetic Fields are the music of songwriter- producer-instrumentalist Stephin Merritt, who lives and records in New York City. Adept at computer music programming and production, Merritt records his own albums and plays almost everything on them with help from cellist Sam Davol, banjo player/second guitarist John Woo, percussionist/pianist Claudia Gonson, and singer Shirley Simms.
Merritt's first two CD's, "The Wayward Bus" and "Distant Plastic Trees", came out in 1991 and 1992 with singer Susan Anway, formerly of the early 80's Boston punk band "V." The album included the early-90's college radio single,"100,000 Fireflies," which first appeared as a single on Harriet Records.
When Susan Anway decided to relocate to Arizona, Stephin Merritt took up the vocal duties and remains the singer of The Magnetic Fields, along with Shirley Simms, who has been sharing the vocal duties with Stephin since 2008’s “Distortion”. In the early 90's the band released several vinyl seven-inch singles, including "Long Vermont Roads" (Harriet Recs) and "The House Of Tomorrow-EP" (Merge), which is now available on CD.
The Magnetic Fields released six full-length albums in the 90’s, all on Merge Records. They then released three albums over the following decade on Nonesuch Records. In 2012, they returned to Merge for their most recent album release, “Love at the Bottom of the Sea.”
The early full-length albums on Merge helped define Merritt’s style of seamlessly combining electronic and acoustic instrumentation. These albums were largely performed by Merritt himself with little outside involvement. "The Charm of the Highway Strip" (1994) was an electro-country meditation on life on the open road. "Holiday (1994) carried a more euro-pop sound, with songs about escape and nightlife. "Get Lost" (1995) was a mixture of styles and moods, including the intimate cabaret sound of "With Whom to Dance?"
In 1999, the Magnetic Fields surged into the mainstream when Merritt penned his virtuosic 3-disc set, "69 Love Songs." Conceived originally as a cabaret song cycle for the stage, Merritt set out to write 69 love songs using most of the known popular music styles, from punk to country to soul and jazz. The album earned top-10 kudos from most major publications, and has since sold 130,000 copies worldwide. Although Merritt was the primary singer on the album, "69 Love Songs" also featured vocals by pianist Claudia Gonson, LD Beghtol, Dudley Klute, and Shirley Simms. The album included instrumental contributions of Future Bible Heroes instrumentalist Chris Ewen, and novelist Daniel Handler on accordion.
In 2002, The Magnetic Fields signed a worldwide record deal with Nonesuch Records (Warner Brothers). For the three albums that followed; "i" in 2004, “Distortion” in 2008 and “Realism” in 2010, Merritt decided to record using only acoustic instrumentation, and no electronic sounds. He called this his “no-synth trilogy,” and continued his long-standing tradition of recording using an array of both eclectic and mainstream instruments, from slinky to zither to gong to bouzouki to hammer dulcimer to the sound of leaves rustling.
The Magnetic Fields released “Love at the Bottom of the Sea” in February of 2012 and toured throughout the States and Europe. Currently, Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields are at work on a new record, planned for release in 2016.