A late shout out to the broken-hearted souls out there: were you left alone on Valentine’s Day, not unlike yours truly? Now, I’m not trying to be one of those bitter love-day-hating, discount-chocolate-eating single folks, in fact I believe that Valentine’s Day is a good way of reminding us of the love we do have in our lives, whether or not it be romantic, and to remember the simplest things that make us the happiest. However, this year the month of February (and Valentine’s Day) happened to come along shortly after my getting dumped by the first girl I ever dated—and was super into. The reason I am telling you about this isn’t to vomit my broken heart all over you, dear reader, but instead to celebrate and share the wisdom and artistic genius that is the breakup album.
February has never been a month I look forward to. It’s a weird time of the year, every year. Because I live in Montreal, the temperature drops to -35 Celsius and there is no sun and you need to climb over four-feet-tall snow banks to get anywhere and people act like animals and I start to question the point of everything. Not to mention that half of the month this year was spent with Mercury in retrograde, which fucks everything up. Add a breakup to the mix and it’s a catastrophe of swinging between anxious and gloomy fits. That is, until I found the work of magic to soothe the lonely, wounded soul known as 69 Love Songs.
What appealed most to me about this album was not only its kitschy, weird charm (something that only Magnetic Fields have been successful in pulling off, to my knowledge), but the fact that it was the sole force that seemed to understand exactly what I was going through. It soothed me, and helped to take the poison out of the wasp sting. I couldn’t get enough of this album all month long, and I still listen to it almost on the daily.
Oddly enough, the eclectic selection of 69 Love Songs that Volume One offers also helped me to tame all the strange that comes along in February. It was in part the voice of reason when the world was chaos, and also in part a reflection of the peculiarities and heightened emotions present in the air.
Before getting into the meat of the album, I must admit that I have yet to hear Volumes Two or Three. They’re in my iTunes library, I just refuse to listen to them, possibly for fear of them not holding true to how amazing Volume One is, and thus altering my opinion of the collection as a whole. Also, judging by the titles of the tracks on the other volumes, there seemed to be less breakup songs, which is all I wanted to hear in the past month or so. So, I’ll only be discussing Volume One for this review, but when I finally give the other 46 songs a listen, you’ll know if they were any good because I will be sure to write about them.
If you are a newbie to Magnetic Fields, go into this album with ears opened wide, both metaphorically and physically. The group is known for their expansive instrumentation and textured sounds that take hours to pick apart, which acts almost like a pointillist painting to the ears. There is always a new colour in the ocean of dots that make up the image, and it’s never boring. Even the simpler songs on this LP are just as charming as the more layered ones. Keeping this in mind, some songs are hard to swallow because they come across as very odd (not unlike October’s Stereo Total) and the lyrics are at times juvenile and silly in tone. If you’re put off, keep listening! Another freakish talent of Magnetic Fields is how good they are at chord progressions, melodies and harmonies. Take my word for it, half of my favourite Magnetic Fields songs I started off hating.
And as this first set of 23 songs features a main theme of heartbreak, there is much wisdom to take away once the album is through, like a dose of honey crawling its way down your throat. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also appreciate the Twee Pop-esque vibes that maintain throughout the album. I’m not calling this a Belle and Sebastian or God Help the Girl record by any means, but the same ennui and fuzzy, vintage, bedroom charm persists in this effort, with a Magnetic Fields twist, of course.
If February gave you a rough time this year, rejoice in knowing that it is over now, and let this album become the ultimate soul mate to help clean up any messy love aftermath you might have experienced. And if not, give it a listen anyways and get ready for the glowing haze of spring (that I hope will be coming to Montreal very soon!); it’s a great album!
If you’re sad, keep an ear out for: “All My Little Words”, “A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off”, “I Think I Need a New Heart” (my perfect heartache song), and “I Don’t Want To Get Over You”
If you just want cool jams, keep an ear out for: “Absolutely Cuckoo”, “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side”, “Parades Go By”, and “The Book of Love” (way calmer, still lovely)
For all the heartbroken out there: I am sending you my love, dear babes. You’ll be alright, don’t you fret. <3