Monday, October 22, 2007

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side

Song: The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
Artist: The Magnetic Fields
Album: 69 Love Songs

While “quirky” can often be a bad word when it comes to music, (and more often than not just a lazy term given to acts you can’t really describe,) sometimes it just fits, as long as the context is one of admiration. There is no other word I can muster that better describes The Magnetic Fields 1999 opus “69 Love Songs,” an album that I adore and which continues to fascinate me. The album is exactly what it’s called… sixty-nine songs on three volumes (23 tracks per disc) that all revolve around one theme: love. Some are less than 30 seconds, some are sung by men, others by woman, but all have a quirkiness to them that is odd yet completely endearing.

The Magnetic Fields formed in Boston, started by New York City singer-songwriter Stephen Merritt in the early 90’s. They recorded a slew of albums through the 90’s but it was with “69 Love Songs” that they finally got more attention and the audience they deserved. It’s an amazing collection that is in turn humorous, heartbreaking, and eponymous. For indie-rock fans it is a must, or anyone that enjoys small stabs of emotional truth peppered through varied, quirky little tunes. (There’s that description again!)

The album can be purchased as a three album box set (which includes a sizable booklet) or separately by volume. The collection should be taken as a whole, and a look at the list doesn’t give me a clear winner for best of the three as my favorite songs from the album are peppered throughout all three volumes. I suppose if I had to give you one to start with I would say to just go with volume one. It’s the start for one thing, and it also has a few tracks that I consider a good template for the album as a whole. “I Don’t Believe in the Sun,” “A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off,” and “Come Back from San Francisco” are some of the best of the collection, all found on volume one… but I must warn you, there are gems throughout.

Also on volume one is probably my favorite song of the bunch, “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side.” It’s a catchy fun little ditty that highlights Merritt’s off-kilter humor and heart-on-your-sleeve aesthetic. It reminds me a lot of my early New York days for a slew of reasons, what the best songs should.

I also recommend their follow up album "i" which was released in 2004. It's a smaller concept (all the songs start with "i") but continues the sound of "Love Songs" which expanding the vibe a bit.


Yeah! Oh Yeah! live

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