February 10, 2004

Stephin Merritt "Pieces of April'

So, in the sense of full disclosure, I feel that I should begin by telling you that there are only five new songs on this record. So, a die-hard Merritt fan has already heard the other five tracks (a few appeared on 69 Love Songs and a few from The 6ths Hyacinths and Thistles.) With that said, the five songs are worth it especially since the previously released material is so pleasant as well.

In the tradition of 69 Love Songs, and really most of Merritt's work, the new material consists of the type of genius, throw-away love songs that leave their impact in two minutes and stick in your head all day. The album is a winner and deserves attention by potential new fans as well as those that are already familiar with Merritt's work. In other words, one doesn't have to be a completeist to go for this album.

The record opens with “All I Want to Know”, a synth tune with a great rhythm section and Claudia Gonson on backing vocals. Merritt's signature baritone is out in full crooning force and while the song has the unassuming nature that is expected of a film soundtrack, it carries significant force. The next new song is called “Dreams Anymore” which has the signature Magnetic Fields sense of upbeat melancholy. Also included is the infectiously catchy “Heather Heather” which features tongue-in-cheek lyrics that presumably pertain to the film (although, the songs stands on its own.) The only song that is heart-wrenchingly beautiful is Merritt's solo offering, “One April Day.” The track if over before you even realized that it started but it hits you hard enough to invite several repeat listens. The last new song, “Stray With Me” is the only one that isn't immediately inviting. While still engaging, the string parts seem oddly placed and despite coming in under three minutes, it still seems to drag.

Overall, yet another excellent release by Stephin Merritt. Perfect pop songs with that sarcastic demeanor that has become his signature over the years. A perfect record for your Valentine or any time of year.

--Elyn Blackman

No comments: