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 discs one and two, which cover 1966 through 1985: Merritt's early life and teenage years, including his efforts to master synthesizers, his late nights at NYC dance clubs and some particularly heinous memories of his mother's boyfriends. Tomorrow we'll add disc three, which covers the era during which Merritt formed The Magnetic Fields.
We've also published an essay by Barry Walters that covers the entire album. My advice: Add both playlists to your queue and head over there to read the whole thing.