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Album review: The Magnetic Fields’ ‘Love at the Bottom of the Sea’

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The New York indie-pop outfit’s first effort for Merge Records since 1999, the 15-track set reclaims the willfully dinky synth-pop sound the Magnetic Fields renounced in recent years in favor of fuzzed-out guitar rock and strummy chamber folk.

Fans of buzz-building mid-'90s albums such as “Get Lost” and “The Charm of the Highway Strip” will instantly recognize “God Wants Us to Wait,” the shimmering pro-abstinence ditty that opens the CD with a bracing spritz of big-city sarcasm. Frontman Stephin Merritt has so refined his wry lyrical approach that his words — not the music behind them — almost exclusively define his songs. Like his similarly motivated heroes from the Great American Songbook, Merritt writes most often about romance gone wrong.

Merritt isn’t depending on anyone’s associations with his old work to put his new material across — especially not his own.

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— Mikael Wood

“Love at the Bottom of the Sea”
The Magnetic Fields
(Merge)
Two and a half stars (out of four)


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