Stephin Merritt Talks with Daniel Handler for the Talkhouse Podcast

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of 69 Love Songs. For the Talkhouse podcast, Stephin sat down with Daniel Handler — aka, A Series Of Unfortunate Events author Lemony Snicket — who played accordion on 69 Love Songs as well as interviewed Stephin for the liner notes. Their deep dive talk also takes in: Daniel’s theory that 69 LS has become a children’s album; “tweecore” beefs with Belle and Sebastian and Stereolab; the record release show that found Stephin trapped above the stage; the best music to get busy to; whispering hecklers; and why 69 Love Songs should’ve been sold in sex shops.

Listen Here.

Stephin Merritt to perform Live Film Score at Town Hall NYC

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On May 18, 2019, Stephin Merritt will be composing and performing original music for the 1925 Tod Browning film The Unholy Three, starring Lon Cheney. Joined by accordionist and novelist Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events), and viola player Pinky Weitzman. Tod Browning, best known for his films Dracula and Freaks brings you the tale of “ A sideshow ventriloquist, midget, and strongman form a conspiracy known as "The Unholy Three" and commit a series of robberies.”

Get tickets now.

Stephin Merritt Playlist from guest DJ on WFMU, New Jersey

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The excellent WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid did a 4 hour radio show on May 16, where he featured all sorts of Stephin Merritt songs from all projects (Mag Fields, Gothic Archies, 6ths, etc). For two of the hours Stephin came in and played lots of cool songs and poems and essays. It's a fun listen, super informative and a nostalgic trip for Magnetic Fields fans. Here's the link to the show archive: http://wfmu.org/playlists/shows/79038

 

STEPHIN TO PERFORM AT BANG ON THE CAN MARATHON

Stephin Merritt and Sam Davol will perform 3 Magnetic Fields songs on May 13, 2018 as part of an illustrious program of over twenty avant garde composers and performers at the all-day Bang on the Can Marathon, starting at noon in NYC! And it's FREE! For tickets, visit https://nyuskirball.org/events/bang-can-marathon/ and to view the program, visit https://nyuskirball.org/events/bang-can-marathon/https://nyuskirball.org/events/bang-can-marathon/

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NEW TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED: LUMINATO FESTIVAL, TORONTO

The Magnetic Fields are pleased to announce one additional performance of their 50 Song Memoir show, at the Luminato Festival in Toronto. The dates are 22+23 June. The ticket info, as well as links to the complete festival listings, are available at the calendar. Tickets for their New York City and Pittsburgh, PA June concerts are also available at the calendar

50 SONG MEMOIR TO BE PERFORMED IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

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The Magnetic Fields will bring their 50 Song Memoir tour to Arts Centre Melbourne's Hamer Hall on October 21 and 22 as part of the Melbourne Festival in the exclusive Australian presentation of the show. The performances include all 50 songs on the recently released album, with songs 1–25 on the first night and 26–50 on the second. Tickets are on sale now at www.festival.melbourne and the calendar page. 

 

Magnetic Fields announce UK and Dublin, IRE tour dates

The Magnetic Fields have announced a limited number of "50 Song Memoir" tour dates around the UK, and Dublin, Ireland in late summer, 2017. The two-night performances will commence on 25+26 August at the Edinburgh International Festival, and end on 9+10 September at London's Barbican Theatre. Along with their June, 2017, appearance at Primavera Festival in Barcelona, these are the only European tour dates that the band has planned this year. To see their full tour schedule, visit the calendar.

August 25 & 26 - Edinburgh, UK - Kings Theatre
August 28 & 29 - Dublin, IRE - The National Concert Hall
August 31 & September 1 - Bristol, UK - Colston Hall
September 3 & 4 - Liverpool, UK - Philharmonic Hall
September 7 & 8 - Brighton, UK - Dome
September 9 & 10 - London, UK - Barbican
 

"50 Song Memoir," A Musical Exploration of Composer Stephin Merritt’s Life Is Out Now

The Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir is out now on Nonesuch Records. The five-CD / five-LP set chronicles the 50 years of songwriter Stephin Merritt’s life with one song per year; it was produced by Stephin Merritt with additional production by Thomas Bartlett and Charles Newman. 50 Song Memoir is available in five-LP and five-CD editions including an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt. To pick up a copy, head to iTunesAmazon, or the Nonesuch Store, where it is also available as a standalone bound book with a full-album download card. You can also hear selections from the album on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.

The video for the album track "'68 A Cat Called Dionysus" premiered today and can be seen below. Directed by José Zayas & Alex Basco Koch, the video features illustrations by Alexander Petrowsky and animation by John Erickson and was produced by Ghost Corporeal. It was originally created for the Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir concert tour directed by Zayas. The tour, featuring the songs of the album over two nights per city in a stage extravaganza, gets into full swing on March 15; full schedule is on the tour page.

The reviews are rolling in:

It's "quite an achievement," says NPR Music. "Some of its wordplay is truly remarkable ... More importantly, Memoir is a tour-de-farce of melody and arrangement." Merritt spoke with NPR's Morning Edition about the project, his love for ABBA, and more; you can hear what he had to say at npr.org.

"[T]he story of his life sounds a lot like a Magnetic Fields album, and a very good one at that," writes Pitchfork's Sam Sodomsky. "50 Song Memoir is an immersive, incisive listen ... It suggests that our deepest wisdom can be located in our most personal thoughts." The review concludes that Merritt's creating this new collection has left "his catalog 50 songs richer as a result."

The new collection is "a highly entertaining summary of pop culture of the past half-century," says the Wall Street Journal's Jim Fusilli. "50 Song Memoir is a treat ... The album is a generous gift to those who seek to know more about its composer or simply share a journey through a half-century with a wry but ultimately amiable guide."

"Really, it is a celebration of Merritt’s sky-high range as a writer and a player, through the exploration of the circumstances that helped cultivate it," writes New York magazine's Vulture reviewer Craig Jenkins. "50 Song Memoir is a chance for Merritt to nail his memories down in an indelible document, a delightful flip through the untold back pages of one of rock’s most singular voices, and, all in all, the best damned Magnetic Fields album in the last ten years."

"Stephin Merritt is a genius," exclaims Exclaim! reviewer Sarah Greene, who gives the album a nine. "[W]hat lingers, along with the musical brilliance and uncharacteristic openness of his 50 Song Memoir, is Merritt's humour; his distinctive baritone delivering countless witty sardonic kernels, sometimes assisted by a well-timed dramatic pause, all wrapped up in catchy, unforgettable songs."

The Independent's i gives the album a perfect five stars, naming it Album of the Week. "Growing up smart, inquisitive and gay through a time of turbulent social change," writes the Independent's Andy Gill, "Merritt’s refracted reminiscences frequently offer thoughtful and incisive insights into bigger issues, and with deceptive sleight of story."

The Guardian gives the album four stars, with reviewer Dave Simpson saying that "the music evolves from a solitary ukulele to richly observed baroque new wave and operatic synthpop, all with terrific tunes. It’s an album worthy of Merritt’s grand half-century."

The Evening Standard gives four stars to this "extraordinary achievement." The Scotsman made 50 Song Memoir its Album of the Week, giving it four stars as well. It's "50 witty and wide-ranging vignettes," writes reviewer Fiona Shepherd, "[a] delightful chronicle of a life lived imaginatively." The Irish Times gives it four stars too, declaring it a "triumph."

Loud and Quiet gives the album a nine out of ten, exclaiming: "50 Song Memoir is a true triumph."

"Merritt's skill of finding the exact turn of phrase to underscore a feeling is one that few achieve," says Consequence of Sound's David Sackllah, "and watching him turn that inward is illuminating."

The Magnetic Fields Unveil Video for "'81 How to Play the Synthesizer"

  • The Magnetic Fields, whose new album, 50 Song Memoir, is due March 10 on Nonesuch, have unveiled the video for the album track "'81 How to Play the Synthesizer," via its YouTube channel. The song, which may be downloaded now with pre-orders of the album on iTunes and the Nonesuch Store, is one of fifty on the five-disc set that chronicles the fifty years of songwriter Stephin Merritt's life with one song per year. You can watch it below.

    The video was directed by John Erickson, Alex Basco Koch, and José Zayas and produced by Ghost Corporeal. It was originally created for the Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir concert tour directed by Zayas. Audiences across the United States can have a look at all of the great visuals that are part of the stage extravaganza in person when the tour begins in full swing on March 15. For tickets, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

    For another sneak peek at the live show's visuals, the fifty-day countdown to the album's release continues on the band's FacebookTwitter, and Instagram accounts.

    50 Song Memoir may be pre-ordered now at iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store, where "'81 How to Play the Synthesizer," "'83 Foxx and I," and one song from each of the five decades of Merritt's life may be downloaded immediately. 50 Song Memoir is available in five-LP and five-CD editions including an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt, and as a standalone bound book with a full-album download card. For a limited time, pre-orders at the Nonesuch Store also come with an exclusive print signed by Merritt.

     

     

The Magnetic Fields Unveil Video for "'83 Foxx and I" from "50 Song Memoir"

  • The Magnetic Fields, whose new album, 50 Song Memoir, is due March 10 on Nonesuch, have unveiled the video for the album track "'83 Foxx and I," via its new official YouTube channel. The song, which may be downloaded now with pre-orders of the album on iTunes and the Nonesuch Store, is one of fifty on the five-disc set that chronicles the fifty years of songwriter Stephin Merritt's life with one song per year. You can watch it below.

    The video was directed by Alex Basco Koch and produced by José Zayas for Ghost Corporeal. It was originally created for the Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir concert tour directed by Zayas. Fans at the first performances of the piece at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) last year got an early look at the great visuals that are part of the stage extravaganza. Audiences across the country can catch them in person as well, when the tour begins in full swing on March 15. For tickets, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

    For another sneak peek at the live show's visuals, the band has begun a visual fifty-day countdown to the album's release on its FacebookTwitter, and Instagram accounts.

    50 Song Memoir is available to pre-order now at iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store, where "'83 Foxx and I" plus one song from each decade of Merritt's life may be downloaded immediately: "'74: No," "'86: How I Failed Ethics," "'93: Me and Fred and Dave and Ted," "'02: Be True to Your Bar," and "'13: Big Enough for Both of Us." 50 Song Memoir is available in five-LP and five-CD editions including an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt, and as a standalone bound book with a full-album download card. For a limited time, pre-orders at the Nonesuch Store also come with an exclusive print signed by Merritt.

     

Nonesuch to release 50 Song Memoir in March, 2017

Nonesuch Records will be releasing the new Magnetic Fields album, 50 Song Memoir, on March 10, 2017. This 50-song, 5 disc recording chronicles the 50 years of Stephin Merritt's life with one song per year. Pre-orders are available now. 

50 Song Memoir is available in five-LP and five-CD editions, including an extensive interview by Daniel Handler and facsimile handwritten lyrics by Merritt, and as a standalone bound book with a full-album download card. For a limited time, pre-orders at the Nonesuch Store also come with an exclusive print signed by Merritt.

50 Song Memoir is available to pre-order now at iTunes and at nonesuch.com, where one song from each decade of Merritt’s life may be downloaded immediately. 

These five songs may also be heard here:

MAGNETIC FIELDS ROLL OUT 2017 US TOUR SCHEDULE FOR 50 SONG MEMOIR

The Magnetic Fields are delighted to announce their 2016-2017 US tour schedule. They will be performing around the country in support of their forthcoming multi-disc album, 50 Song Memoir, to be released Spring 2017 on Nonesuch Records. This 50-song series will be performed over two nights in each city (songs #1-25 on night 1, songs #26-50 on night 2). 

The quintet turned septet is working with director Jose Zayas (Love in the Time of Cholera), along with a crew of projection, sets and lighting designers to create this fully staged, special concert series. The concerts will premiere at Mass MoCA on November 18-19, 2016, and then head to Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave” festival on December 2-3, 2016. 

Following the two 2016 pre-album release performances, the band will then perform around the US, beginning in March 2017. See below for full the band’s 2017 schedule (note: Boston performances will be announced at a later date). Tickets for the Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oakland, and Portland shows go on sale Friday. All others are on sale now. For information on tickets, please visit our calendar page. 

First two Magnetic Fields albums to be released on vinyl for the first time

The Magnetic Fields’ first two albums, The Wayward Bus and Distant Plastic Trees, will make their debut appearance on vinyl in December 2016, packaged together as a two-LP set.

Distant Plastic Trees, the Magnetic Fields’ first album, was originally released in England and Japan in 1991. Merritt’s accordion player, the novelist Daniel Handler, later noted that “this tinny and intimate recording, in quiet defiance of the reigning roar of pop music, recalls both the early, scratchy field recordings of folk music and the first experiments in electronic music—precisely the sort of stylistic balance the Magnetic Fields liked to achieve.” The album includes the early-’90s college radio single “100,000 Fireflies” which had earlier appeared as a single on Harriet Records and was later covered by Superchunk.

For its domestic debut, Distant Plastic Trees was paired with the Magnetic Fields’ 1992 album The Wayward Bus on a single CD that came out on the band’s own PoPuP Records imprint before its re-release on Merge in 1994. While both albums feature singer Susan Anway (formerly of early-’80s Boston punk band V;), the latter introduced several new players who would subsequently make regular appearances on Merritt’s various musical projects. As Handler explained, “The Wayward Bus adds cellist Sam Davol, tuba player Johny Blood and percussionist Claudia Gonson to create a plinky, orchestral sound in tribute to pop producer Phil Spector and his ‘Wall of Sound.’”

The album artwork on both Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus was created by watercolorist Wendy Smith. Her beautiful wrap-around paintings, now printed in a larger format, along with remastered audio make this two-LP set an exciting addition to the Magnetic Fields discography.

Preorder information can be found over at Merge Records.