10 Essential Songs by The Magnetic Fields

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.

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“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.