69 Love Songs
What you see is what you get with this sprawling concept set -- sort of. Magnetic Fields main man Stephin Merritt (whose other projects include the 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, and the Gothic Archies) has indeed written 69 songs on the topic of love. He's also made the three CDs (available individually or as a limited-edition box set) a varied listen by utilizing four vocalists in addition to himself and by employing a variety of styles. Some songs are finely crafted show tunes, some are goofy asides, and some are straight-ahead, wistful pop songs that are in heavy radio rotation -- in some fair, parallel universe. Throughout the collection, Merritt's wordplay is either artful, touching, or both, revealing why he's often called the Cole Porter of the underground. On "Love Is Like Jazz," Merritt casts his subject this way: "It's divine/ It's asinine/ It's depressing/ And it's almost entirely window dressing/ But it'll do." The instrumentation, both organic and synthetic, is simple and complements each song's style: chiming guitars here, new wavey keyboards there, and occasional touches of cello, ukulele, violin, or flute. Merritt initially conceived of 69 Love Songs as a traveling revue performing 100 modern love songs. In fact, 69 will do.