The Magnetic Fields – i

The Magnetic Fieldsi (Nonesuch)

I’ve always considered The Magnetic Fields somewhere halfway between The Cure and Belle and Sebastian. After all, Stephen Merritt has made a pretty successful career out of balancing pristine low-fidelity pop and folk songs with cut electronic loops, forming albums not distinctly pointed towards digital or analog, but using the most beautiful elements of both genres to create music more timeless then most material pointed specifically in one direction or the other.

i, his latest album, has abandoned the breezy qualities of his previous work for a more polished hi-fi sound that almost entirely rids itself of any semblance of the electronic pieces that gave his other albums their flavor. The results are mixed and sometimes downright boring—with nothing to spice up his arrangements, some of Merritt’s songs resemble a blank-faced reflection in the mirror. His ear for melody and arrangement—still evident here—saves the album from being entirely useless, but unfortunately isn’t enough on its own to hold i up to the standards we’ve previously held Merritt to.

That his latest album is mired in gimmick (like his previous, 69 Love Songs—every song on his latest begins with the titular letter) doesn’t make things easier to swallow, and that he focuses on the most egocentric letter in the alphabet (“I Wish I Had an Evil Twin,” “I Die”) might lead the listener into, simply, not giving a shit after a while. Merritt claims that he hasn’t run out of gas, that the more standard sound on his latest was truly his inspiration. Well, to steal the title from one of the tracks found here, “I Don’t Believe You.”

3 thoughts on “The Magnetic Fields – i”

  1. EEENGH! Wrong answer! Everybody has been trashing this album, but it sounds good to me. Merritt’s songwriting is better than ever, and to me the instrumentation is ALOT more interesting than anything they’ve done before. (Plus, his singing is actually quite good on this one…) This review sounds like every other review I’ve read for this CD, which is “oh Gard, our boy doesn’t sound indie anymore..”.

    Also, the “I” gimmick doesn’t detract from the album at all. Just because he isn’t always writing about how he’s a miserable bastard doesn’t mean the songs don’t have feeling…..

    Don’t fear change Tom! Don’t fear change!


  2. i just listened to the album and quite honestly it left me dissapointed, envisioning ways to sell it. I is a prime example of why people download music. 16.00 was not worth 2 good songs.

    I is egocentric and ever so boring, lacking his usual lyrical genius. As a fan, I dont have to embrace every peice of crud the group puts out in the name of open mindedness. I know of a thing called a “prime” and perhaps the magnetic fields has passed it.

    please dont buy this cd and we may be able to see them preform in a coffee shop nearby, sometime soon.

    I sorry

  3. Man, holy crap…..I think you need to check that i album again if you didn’t like it too much. I like the Magnetic Fields……

    but whatever, cause I don’t have to stand up for Merrit, cause his music does it for him.

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