DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,
DXMachina
dxmachina

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i

It seems Stephin Merritt has a thing about the word "infinite." It shows up an awful lot in his songs, although he always seems to pronounce it differently, bending it to fit with whatever rhyme and meter he's presently working in. I digress, however. In the days when the Buffistas were still at Tabletalk, there was a lot of nattering about the Magnetic Fields' album 69 Love Songs. I was intrigued, because a lot of people whose opinions I trust really liked it a lot. It's a three CD set, though, quite an investment if it turned out to be a dud. I could have bought it in parts, but the completist in me insisted on the boxed set or nothing. I tried to find mp3s of some of the songs to see if I'd like it, but no such luck. I never did overcome the inertia, and eventually it became yesterday's news and forgotten.

Flash forward to last weekend at Newbury's, when I noticed the new Magnetic Fields album, i, on display. It was even on sale!
I had a dream and you were in it
The blue of your eyes was infinite
You seemed to be
In love with me
Which isn't very realistic

-- "I Don't Believe You"

Okay, I admit it. I'm a sap for love songs. Good ones, anyway. Mind, not every song here is a love song, but most do address some facet of the subject. The album title has multiple meanings. All the song titles start with the letter "i." The songs are all written in the first person. And then there's that word, "infinite."

Merritt is a wonderful song writer. The songs here are both clever and catchy, in lots of pop musical styles. There's an eighties dance number ("I Thought You Were My Boyfriend"), a torch song ("Is This What They Used to Call Love?"), a dance hall number ("In an Operetta," a song that reminds me a lot of the Kinks "She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina"), and even a country-western ballad ("I'm Tongue-Tied"). The instrumention is spare. Only piano, guitar, cello, and drums on most cuts. (veejane mentioned that the addition of a bass, or even some sustain on the piano, would add a little depth to the sound. I really hadn't noticed until she mentioned it, and it really hadn't bothered me until then.) So many good songs here, with lots of great lines. I want to cite them all, especially the ones that resonate with me (e.g., "I'm Tongue-Tied").

The album closes with the exquisite "It's Only Time," a beautiful song that caps off an album about love perfectly, in spite of it being last song only by virtue of the first word in it's title.

It's Only Time

Why would I stop loving you
A hundred years from now?
It's only time
     (It's only time)
It's only time
     (It's only time)

What could stop this beating heart
Once it's made a vow?
It's only time
     (It's only time)
It's only time
     (It's only time)

If rain won't change your mind
Let it fall
The rain won't change my heart
At all

Lock this chain around my hand
Throw away the key
It's only time
     (It's only time)
It's only time
     (It's only time)

Years falling like grains of sand
Mean nothing to me
It's only time
     (It's only time)
It's only time
     (It's only time)

If snow won't change your mind
Let it fall
The snow won't change my heart
Not at all

(I'll walk your lands)
     I'll walk your lands
(And swim your sea)
     And swim your sea
Marry me
Marry me

(And in your hands)
     And in your hands
(I will be free)
     I will be free
Marry me
Marry me

Why would I stop loving you
A hundred years from now?


It's not just the sentiment here, or that it's so terribly romantic, or Merritt's vocal that makes this song. There's a neat bit of arrangement going on as well. Early in the song, the backup vocals repeat the line "It's only time" after Merritt sings it, the standard way of doing things. This changes in the second half. The backup vocalists sing their lines first, and Merritt repeats them, as one would repeat wedding vows, which are kind of what those lines are. I think it's neat, anyway.

Anyhow, I liked it a lot, and 69 Love Songs is now on order from Amazon.
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