The Magnetic Fields - 50 Song Memoir album review: A life in song, literally

50 Song Memoir
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Genre: Alternative
Label: Nonesuch

US songwriter Stephin Merritt is no stranger to song cycles, as proven by his 1999 triple album, 69 Love Songs, which delivered precisely what its title states. Ditto with 50 Song Memoir, a five-disc chronicle of Merritt's first 50 years.

Ten songs on each physical disc last just over 30 minutes, so the pace is brisk. And if you think there’s musical repetition, then you’d best prepare for an extremely broad range of styles, instrumentation and recording techniques (assisted throughout by The Gloaming’s Thomas Bartlett).

Lyrically, Merritt's chronological detail is comprehensive, touching on numerous "life" topics, among them conception (Wonder Where I'm From), romance (Stupid Tears), breadline economics (Haven't got a Penny), anguish (Have You Seen It in the Snow?) and sexual optimism (Somebody's Fetish). A tidy, well-negotiated triumph.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture