The Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the Sea

Even after over 20 years as downer pop champions, the Magnetic Fields still bare the flame of romantic cynicism that will continue to haunt socially awkward lovers. And after a trilogy of stripped down “rock” albums persisting throughout the 2000s, Love at the Bottom of the Sea also marks a return to the Magnetic Fields’ earlier avant-garde synth sensibilities. 

Love at the Bottom of Sea
also hearkens back to the swift sound-bite song lengths of the immensely prolific 69 Love Songs, managing to shell out 15 songs in little over a half an hour. The difference here is that they are less concerned with moping about failed affairs than poking fun at the struggles of transitioning into aging romantics.  

“The Horrible Party” presents a list of trivial complaints of egregious drug use and distasteful plastic surgery pointed at their fellow hedonistic socialite partygoers over the backdrop of an electro-orchestral waltz, while “God Wants Us to Wait” tackles the task of satirizing the outlandish narrative of an avid abstinence supporter by offering the familiar condolences of “Though it would be the perfect end to our date/I love you baby but God wants us to wait.”

By halfway in, the consistent baroque shuffle of Love at the Bottom of the Sea wears thin, with the less-inspired instrumentals unable to stand on the stilts of Merritt’s witty lyricism. Much-needed relief comes in the form of the record’s penultimate track “Quick!” which could easily be mistaken for one of the countless gems from the Magnetic Fields’ extensive discography. With its straightforward pop hook and jangling stomp, “Quick!” taps the warm, juvenile modesty that made the Fields’ a household indie-rock name, though it ultimately serves as a mere mental note to give their ramshackle, lo-fi opus 69 Love Songs one more spin. (6/10)