Album of the Day
Released 10 years ago, The Magnetic Fields' REALISM was the last of a “no synths” trilogy that also includes I and DISTORTION. In fact, the Nonesuch collection takes the low-tech concept a step further, largely abandoning electric guitars and rock drumming. Magnetic mastermind Stephin Merritt has described the set as a folk album, and even if it does include a song called “We Are Having a Hootenanny,” it takes a broader approach to acoustic music along the lines of Judy Collins' baroque late-'60s collaborations with Joshua Rifkin. The cellos, banjos and sitars serve a baker's dozen originals whose sardonic takes on heartache are among Merritt's most accessible since 69 LOVE SONGS, both beautifully sung and well-produced. From indie pop gem “You Must Be Out of Your Mind” to “The Dada Polka” to a twisted holiday number (“Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree”), REALISM offers a lot of variety, and shows The Magnetic Fields remain among the most adventurous in alternative music.