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the Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs (1999)

September 13, 2019

[Album 669/1001]

Did you see the Vulture article where Bill Wyman ranked all 213 Beatles songs?

It’s an exercise that is equal parts fun (as who doesn’t like an oversized music list), fantastic (Penny Lane @ #3, me too!), and flabbergasting (Rocky Raccoon @ #166?! inexcusable!).

So I thought I’d try my hand at a ranking of the 69 love songs found on 69 Love Songs.

Enjoy!

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69. Fido, Your Leash is Too Long – I struggle with unfulfilled potential. Here, a promising song keeps getting interrupted by an obnoxious sound effect. It’s sort of like the record scratches in Baby Got Back. But less scratchy & more annoying-y.

68. Punk Love – the middle section of volume 1 truly is the best of times/the blurst of times!

67. Experimental Music Love – well, it was a short experiment?

66. I Shatter – The lead vocal is almost inaudibly low-pitched.

65. Strange Eyes – aye, ’tis strange.

64. Two Kinds of People – I’m pleased to have learned what the phrase ‘ever twain shall be’ means.

63. Love in the Shadows – I prefer Jemaine Clement & co.’s, What We Do In The Shadows

62. Roses – I do like seeing the verb ‘woo’ appear in a lyric sheet.

61. How Fucking Romantic – I like the a Capella idea. There are just 60 songs that I like more.

60. You’re My Only Home – if it’s synth you seek, seek and ye shall find it here

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59. It’s a Crime – not really my cuppa, but no musical crimes committed.

58. Boa Constrictor – 58-second track, seems about the right ranking.

57. Xylophone Track – 12-bar blues, if that’s what you’re into.

56. Blue You – I certainly don’t mind a good whistle, this one reminds me of Billy Joel’s The Stranger.

55. Queen of the Savages – Pleasing ukulele chords.

54. Zebra – unorthodox album closer. Though I suppose a 3-hour, triple album adventure is somewhat unorthodox too!

53. Parades Go By – sounds like a didgeridoo in the background?

52. Promises of Eternity – a bit sound effect heavy for me, but to each his/her/their own.

51. Acoustic Guitar – good Steve Earle name-check.

50. I Think I Need a New Heart – like Brown Eyed Girl, but instead of reminiscing fondly, more about managing expectations for future disappointment

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49. When My Boy Walks Down the Street – good vocal section around 1:40.

48. My Only Friend – that is some quick & high-pitched piano work.

47. My Sentimental Melody – the accordion is a nice touch.

46. The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing – I like that the old floor is described as ‘rickety.’

45. Grand Canyon – Pleasant trumpet line.

44. The Things We Did and Didn’t Do – neat line with “all the things…that you told me just to tell me later that you told me so.”

43. Abigail, Belle of Kilronan – Maybe the second best song about an Abigail (behind Abigail, by Arkells).

42. Bitter Tears – nice & steady kick drum.

41. The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side – simple, yet effective tune.

40. I’m Sorry I Love You – no apologies needed for this one.

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39. Kiss Me Like You Mean It – If one wishes to be kissed, doing so with meaning doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

38. If You Don’t Cry – strong chorus, “If you don’t cry, it isn’t love.”

37. Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget – I like the octave gap in between the vocals.

36. The Way You Say Good-Night – There’s a bit of an Airborne Toxic Event vibe to the vocal melody & that’s fine by me.

35. Long-Forgotten Fairytale – the classic middle-of-the-pack / median tune!

34. Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing – Always had a soft spot for songs about losing oneself while dancing (Fred Astaire’s Cheek to Cheek / Danny Kaye The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing).

33. Reno Dakota – top marks for the rhyming scheme of Dakota / iota / quota!

32. How to Say Goodbye – like listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way, I find I’m drawn to the drums.

31. Come Back from San Francisco – clean lead guitar part & fine female vocal.

30. No One Will Ever Love You – Though I don’t care for unkept promises, I tend to like songs with lyrics about over-promising / under-delivering (“Where is the madness that you promised me?”)

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29. The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be – nice details with the dinner bell and different L/R audio.

28. (Crazy for You) But Not That Crazy – what can I say, perhaps the reason I like the That Thing You Do theme song so much, I’m a sucker for a double snare hit!

27. Asleep and Dreaming – Maybe deserves to be higher, but in the volume 2 running order, it has the relative misfortune of following a pair of my favourites.

26. All My Little Words – banjo takes the lead, no complaints here.

25. World Music – some good problem solving demonstrated in the lyrics, “even I know the solution, love, music, wine and revolution.”

24. Very Funny – nice soaring notes, vocals sound an awful lot like a Corey Hart ballad.

23. Busby Berkeley Dreams – “outrageously beautiful” piano-driven tune.

22. A Pretty Girl Is Like… – “A Pretty Girl is Like…A Pretty Girl” Indeed.

21. Love is Like Jazz – after the first listen, this might have been #69. But after a few listens, it’s so strange, it works!

20. Absolutely Cuckoo – good choice for the volume 1 opener, irresistible ukulele.

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19. Washington, D.C. – 1999 was a good year for cheerleader intros, like this one’s, “W.a.s.h.i.n.g.t.o.n. baby, D.C.!  or Matthew Good Band’s “k.i.c.k.a.s.s. that’s the way we spell success!”

18. Yeah! Oh, Yeah! – yeah! punctuation!

17. I Don’t Believe in the Sun – when people look back from the future on 1999 music, they may wonder why singers complained about being specifically targeted by the weather. Like Travis’ Why Does It Always Rain on Me, was that part of the whole Y2K craze?

16. The Death Of Ferdinand De Saussure – I’m pleased he didn’t sing lead on all 69 songs, but I find I really look forward to the Stephin Merritt vocal tracks.

15. The Book of Love – Not dissimilar to Sting’s Fields of Gold, not too shabby in my books.

14. Meaningless – songs about kicking in teeth have rarely sounded so agreeable!

13. Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits – the background sound effects are a bit overpowering but the Beach Boys-esque melody still cuts through nicely.

12. For We Are the King of the Boudoir – fabulous harpsichord & use of the term, ‘prowesslessnesslessness.’

11. A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off – bonus marks for the “whoa Nelly” after the first chorus!

10. I Can’t Touch You Anymore – Evokes Fastball’s The Way – yay!

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9. The Night You Can’t Remember – I will surely remember this track.

8. Underwear – Perhaps my 2nd favourite tune named Underwear (behind Pulp’s Underwear), in pretty good company!

7. I Don’t Want to Get Over You – Mellencamp-y, in a very good way.220px-The_Magnetic_Fields_-_69_Love_Songs (1)

6. Time Enough for Rocking When We’re Old – Perhaps the sort of thing Kurt Cobain was referring to when he sang, “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld.”

5. Epitaph for My Heart – like a blueprint for Ryan AdamsWhen Stars Go Blue, a song I really like. It’s possible I like this one even more.

4. Sweet-Lovin’ Man – A dropped ‘g’, cowbell, a ‘what a feelin‘-ish big chorus, what’s not to like!

3. Love is Like a Bottle of Gin – the triple album’s lyrical high point.

2. Papa Was a Rodeo – really nice understated drums & cut outs, even nicer vocal delivery.

1. The One You Really Love – great lyric twist in the final chorus. Much like the Sixth Sense twist, very 1999!

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Verbalize the Positive

This is a perfect album for driving from Kingston to Toronto. If the album ends before you get there, the traffic was not so good. If you get there before the end of the album, you made good time!

From → 1990s

34 Comments
  1. You mention listening to music from Kingston to Toronto.
    Back in the day when I and Tbone did road trips from Tbay to Winnipeg to see concerts, it was an 8-9 hour drive! Tbone would load up his CD Changer with about 10 discs in his mustang and we would fly down the highway.
    I recall one drive to see McCartney back in 93 where we must have listened to Wings Over America about 3 times in a row. You had to love those double live discs!
    Thanks for bringing back the flashback!

    • McCartney’s still on my to-see list – fortunately, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down!
      Those road trip pre-show drives are great, glad I could help provide a pleasant flashback. Enjoy the weekend, Deke!

  2. Papa Was A Rodeo is my favourite – pleased to see it at number two. Lots of good songs, but 69 lo-fi tracks with simple arrangements can be a bit wearying.

    • I think on future listens, I’ll skip to my favourites from the set. I’m pleased you’re a fan of Papa.. as well!

  3. Those wonderful graphs make me want to have another go at this highly regarded album. (But let’s not rank all the Beatles songs, please. Don’t want to ruin a beautiful friendship!)

    • My thanks Bruce – and I wouldn’t dare rank their catalogue! As this was brand new to me, the ranking didn’t have any of the emotional investment that would make a list of The Beatles simply impossible

  4. That was an impressive list and the graphs add so much to it. Don’t know these guys, but that seems like a lot to start with since it has 3 disc and 69 songs. Maybe I will have to take it slow.

    • I admire their ambition of recording a triple album – but I’m hoping the rest of their catalogue isn’t all triples, who has that kind of time to listen!

  5. jprobichaud permalink

    I tried getting into this. Neat idea. But seriously?! 69 songs?!

    • Clocking in at 2 hours & 52 minutes, no less!
      It worked very well as an uninterrupted solo drive from Kingston – Toronto (and back, seeing Blue Rodeo when in T.O). I don’t think I would have been able to fit in a 3-hour uninterrupted listen at any other time!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        I suppose that could work, though I like a bit of variety for long car rides. I usually load up my iPhone and hit shuffle.

    • Put it this way: “Cocksucker Blues” is not on the list.

  6. I love every nanosecond of this. It’s a beauty on vinyl.

    I love the plethora of styles on show. Fido is my fave.

    • It was 2 hours & 52 minutes well spent!
      That’s fantastic your #1 was my #69 – I just couldn’t get past that sound effect, it sounded like a really promising track without it,
      But I suppose they say, the true greats are always polarizing!

      • I genuinely hadn’t noticed that before I typed it too! I also love the colour-based one as well.

        The whole thing was apparently conceived as a drag revue. Now that I’d like to see.

      • I’d watch that!

  7. “Did you see the Vulture article where Bill Wyman ranked all 213 Beatles songs?”

    Reading it now. Well written, though I don’t agree with everything.

    Most glaring mistake on Bill’s part so far: “You know my name, look up the number” is not in the bottom 10.

    • I imagine such lists will never lead to everyone agreeing – sort of like the 1001 list. I’m pleased the editors didn’t rank the 1001, instead just saying make sure to hear all of them!

  8. Nothing to do with Jean Michel Jarre’s Magnetic Fields. How many realize that the pun was lost in translation?

  9. Every single one of The Beatles 213 songs is tied for first…. heh heh… 69…

    • The Beatles have consistently been one of my four favourite groups (others: Jethro Tull (replacing the Moody Blues), Rush, Pink Floyd, though I might have to make it 5 now that Nightwish has done so much good stuff, and perhaps also throw in Iron Maiden) since I started listening to rock music (when I saw a Beatles tribute show—The Mahoney Brothers—at an amusement park a few months before Lennon was shot). I am a real fan. I know all of Neil Peart’s stuff and also think that Ringo is both the most famous and the most underrated drummer.

      Even so, the Beatles have some duds. Some are cringeworthy (“Run For Your Life”, “Revolution #9), some are throw-aways (“Rocky Racoon”), some are just weak (about half of the stuff after Sergeant Pepper, some too conventional (some early stuff, including covers). But they have more than a 100, probably more than 150, really good songs.

    • A friend once said about ranking Dylan’s songs, “Like a Rolling Stone is 1st, everything else tied for 2nd!”

  10. Wow, thanks for doing this! I admire you for taking on this beast of an album and reviewing/ranking it all. Haven’t given it a listen myself, will explore your top 5 from the LP

  11. I’m aware of this, but I’ve never heard it… and I’m unlikely to given the runtime. Certainly not in one sitting. That’s a commitment.

    • Is Glasgow to Manchester somewhere in the area of a 3 hour drive? If you find yourself needing a 3 hour soundtrack for a long drive, this worked for me going from Kingston – Toronto!

      • Haha! It is… and I’ll keep it in mind!

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