This is the most difficult post I’ve ever written. Seriously guys, choosing between all the amazing songs that The Magnetic Fields have released was traumatic. How can I choose only ten? I’m not Sophie, you bastards! But choose I must and I want to encourage you to use this list as a leaping off point because if you have not yet experienced the joy and wonder of Stephin Merritt you are fucking up your life in such a dramatic fashion that I can not even conceive of how you are alive right now.
As you may have surmised, I love this band. I love them harder than anything else ever, they are my all time-appropriate for any occasion-abandon me in the wilderness with just 69 Love Songs and I’ll be fine favorite. I can not stress my love enough.
I was introduced to them back in college. It was late 2000/early 2001 when an art major named Landon who had a tattoo on his forearm of a pin-up style cat lady changed my entire life. At the time, I was co-hosting a radio show with my friend Joy (Headbutting the Devil with Serial Redhead and Hyper-Erotic Joy, to be exact) and we were very popular with the art boys. Partly because the sculpture studio had limited radio reception and partly because we read the weather forecast phone-sex style.
It was a mutually beneficial relationship, we played their requests, they cast us in their art films and invited us to their shows, everyone was happy. It was after one of the Milwaukee’s Best and box wine soaked openings that Landon walked me back to my dorm and gave me the greatest gift of all time. Joy called, concerned that in my box wine drunkenness I would bang a dude with a cat lady tattoo, I said “of course not, my room is a mess but he gave me a cd”. I was wrong. It wasn’t a cd it was the three cd masterpiece 69 Love Songs which sparked a life-long love and this entirely long winded story.
My point is, you remember the first person who brings Magnetic Fields into your life and sometimes being a slob keeps you from making poor life choices.
Here- in no particular order- are the ten greatest Magnetic Fields songs.
1. Reno Dakota
Learn this song. Have a friend learn it. Sing it together when you’ve been drinking then dissolve into giggles. Feel your heart bounce up with joy. Repeat. Especially effective on lovely summer nights.
2. Two Characters In Search Of A Country Song
I love this narrative. You are so fucked up and you fall in love with someone who makes you feel mythical and you exist in a place outside of the world that can only be explained in fiction because it is bigger than language. It makes me think of Andy.
3. Yeah! Oh Yeah!
Listen guys, it’s a super catchy duet about being so sick of your annoying wife that you kill her, with a knife, in a rhyme! You have to love it.
4. I’m Sorry I Love You
You need a summertime, windows down driving and singing song? This is it. Steering wheel drumming? Check. Unapologetic full volume sing-a-long? Check. Unrequited love? Fucking check.
5. You Must Be Out Of Your Mind
Sweetly harmonized bitterness is the best. “I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty” is one of the most honest break up lines ever written.
6. The Nun’s Litany
True story- I once played a fallen nun and requested that this song be part of the preshow music and it was and it delighted me every night. Also an excellent example of Stephin Merritt’s gender fucked song writing.
7. All My Little Words
The song that brought “unboyfriendable” into my lexicon. Of great significance.
8. I Don’t Really Love You Anymore
This might be my actual favorite, favorite. “Cause I’ve read your horoscope and now I’ve given up all hope” is so great. It’s just fantastic.
9. Papa Was A Rodeo
A Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra style duet about gator wrestlers! It’s so romantic! With a twist ending! It’s the best!
10. Asleep and Dreaming
This song actively breaks my heart. It is one of the loveliest love songs ever written. “I don’t know if you’re beautiful because I love you too much” kills me.
11. How Fucking Romantic
Winner of the most bizarre video award. Also, delightful for calling out all the love song tropes and being the only song involving bears on bicycles that I have ever heard.
But there’s more!
Ugh fuck it. Just go buy everything they’ve ever done. There’s a new album due out in March. Get that too.