10 Essential Songs by The Magnetic Fields

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
March 6 2012 8:45 AM

Where Do I Start with The Magnetic Fields?

magnetic
Love at the Bottom of the Sea, the new album by The Magnetic Fields

The Stephin Merritt-led group The Magnetic Fields can be off-putting to first-time listeners. They come firmly from the indie pop realm, but their music dabbles in everything from show tunes and free jazz to noise-rock and New Wave. Their early work is known for its use of synthesizers, but their last three albums had no synthesizers at all.

And we haven't even mentioned the one hulking elephant in the room: Their masterpiece comes in at a whopping 69 songs.

With such a long and eclectic career, where does a new fan begin? Their new album, 
Love at the Bottom of the Sea, comes out this week, so we asked Dan Kois to recommend 10 essential songs from their discography, and put them together in a Spotify playlistHis selections are below.

Advertisement


“100,000 Fireflies” from Distant Plastic Trees (1991)
“Old Orchard Beach” from The Wayward Bus (1992)
“Torn Green Velvet Eyes” from Holiday (1993)
“All the Umbrellas in London” from Get Lost (1995)
“Papa Was a Rodeo” from 69 Love Songs (1999)
“The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure” from 69 Love Songs (1999)
“When My Boy Walks Down the Street” from 69 Love Songs (1999)
“All I Want to Know” from Pieces of April (2003)
“California Girls” from Distortion (2008)
“I've Run Away to Join the Fairies” from Love at the Bottom of the Sea (2012)

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.