The best thing about San Francisco’s Noise Pop festival this year is going to be the two shows by The Magnetic Fields. I saw them at the Herbst Theatre during Noise Pop ’08. If you have never heard Stephin Merritt’s voice, I would have a real hard time explaining it to you. It’s pretty much deep, monotone and sounds like it came from another era.
Stephin is the the face of Magnetic Fields and the sole songwriter. He also records under The Gothic Archives, The 6ths, Future Bible Heros as well as his own name. He is a very strange man. He can’t stand the sound of clapping, so he forbids it at his shows. He comes across as very dry and serious, yet he includes so much humor in his songs. Yes, it is dry humor, but he is a very funny individual. And no matter what you think of his voice or music (you’ll either love or hate it), he is one of the most gifted songwriters of his time.
The Magnetic Fields is Stephin‘s most popular band and includes female vocalist Claudia Gonson. This creates a beauty/beast dynamic that could not be more perfect. The band does not have a drummer, it is strictly wind, strings and voice, making a very unique song and live experience. 1999’s 69 Love Songs 3-disk collection is their masterpiece. 69 perfectly crafted pop (in the broadest sense of the word) songs, including one of my favorites of all time, Papa Was A Rodeo.
Stephin and crew shy away from the media and public exposure. They do not give many interviews or talk much about their art. Their art has always just spoken for itself. But now there is a film about Stephin and The Magnetic Fields. This film is going to be shown at Noise Pop this year. It will provide a rare look into the life of Stephin and other aspects of the band. The film is screening on Feb 28th at 8:00pm at Mezzanine. I believe the band will be in attendance.
I won’t make Noise Pop this year, but if you are in the Bay Area, I highly recommend checking out this film and catching one of the (now sold out) performances if possible.
On a sidenote, the new album, Realism, is coming out next week. It can be streamed on their MySpace page now. After listening to it once, I’m not convinced it’s very good…but sometimes their music takes some time to appreciate.
Tickets to film (via San Francisco Film Society)