The Magnetic Fields Master Short but Sweet Storytelling on 'Quickies'
Published May 15, 2020The Magnetic Fields' first album since 2017's sprawling 50 Song Memoir takes the exact opposite approach: Quickies is an eclectic company of cigar box instruments and synthesizers over 28 whimsical lullabies, none longer than two-and-a-half minutes. Lyrically unabashed, Quickies is a feathering-through of a poetry book from a minstrel's bum pocket.
Shuffling between vocalists like a deck of cards, one song showcases Stephin Merritt's signature low, operatic vibrato until the next card is flipped to reveal Shirley Simms' harsh and crisp vocal performance delivered like that of an '80s rock ballad. Claudia Gonson's voice is a perfect balance between the former two, a smooth alto singing satirically about the death of politicians over a simple piano's lower register.
The album's 47-second-long avatar "Bathroom Quickie" is simple but blatantly expressive, especially after the line "I want you to get me sticky." The brief track declares sheer desire for a semi-private moment of intimacy over tiny xylophone droplets hinged together by an accented accordion, all drenched in reverberation-ation-ation.
Most of the songs are fairly simple in production, allowing for an assortment of sounds that matches the lyrical variety. Various stringed instruments are strummed and plucked vivaciously on "Come, Life, Shaker Life!" like a band of bards in a fantastical brewery. Rarely will you hear traditional drum tracks throughout the album, but the odd Moog synth will chime in to surprise listeners like a thunderous crash.
At times jovial and elsewhere solemn, Quickies is an anthology of flash fictions, thematically clashing against one another like "I've Got a Date with Jesus" and "You've Got a Friend in Beelzebub," yet otherwise twinning mischievously like "The Best Cup of Coffee in Tennessee" and "The Biggest Tits in History." (Nonesuch)