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First Listen: The Magnetic Fields, '50 Song Memoir'


Among fans, a new album by The Magnetic Fields is a moment for celebration and scrutiny: What restrictions has Stephin Merritt placed on his songwriting and recording this time, and how have they tweaked his carefully-made songs into new shapes? On 50 Song Memoir, the rules are as esoteric as ever (no more than seven instruments per song, no instrument used more than seven times across the album), but in using his own life as raw material, Merritt gives close listeners something new. This story weaves together the events of a life dedicated to music (one song for each of his 50 years) with the skills and perspective honed by that dedication.

We’re doing something special with 50 Song Memoir: Each day this week, we’ll premiere one of its five discs. Today, you can hear disc one, which covers 1966 through 1975: Merritt’s first ten years, from conception through his early musical and religious epiphanies. Come back tomorrow for more. (In the ‘80s, Merritt discovers synths.)

We’ve also published an essay by Barry Walters that covers the entire album. My advice: Add the playlist to your queue and head over there to read the whole thing.

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