The Magnetic Fields - Realism (2010)

Described by songwriter Stephin Merritt as "my folk album", the instrumentation of Realism is largely acoustic, stark in contrast to the band's previous album, Distortion, released in 2008. Merritt said he "thought of the two records as a pair" and considered titling the albums True and False; ultimately, he couldn't decide which title would correspond with which album. The song "The Dada Polka" is the only track to utilize an electric guitar. Merritt also avoided using a traditional drum kit, further separating the sound of Realism from the noise pop of Distortion. Along with Distortion and the 2004 album i, Realism was also recorded without the use of synthesizers, completing the band's "no-synth trilogy".

The Magnetic Fields’ "Realism" will be released by Nonesuch Records on January 26, 2010. The band’s ninth album is the follow-up to 2008’s Distortion, which was hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the best records of [their] career.” Whereas Distortion was an album of power-pop songs with heavily distorted guitars, in homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, Realism finds front man and songwriter Stephin Merritt drawing inspiration from late 1960s / early 70s orchestral and psychedelic folk. Realism’s all-acoustic recording line up featured no electronic instruments, and used nontraditional percussion instruments, ranging from tabla to tree leaves. The Magnetic Fields will tour the US in support of the album beginning February 4. The complete list of dates can be found below and at

As the album title implies, Realism finds Merritt examining what “real” really means in recorded music, exploring the sincerity (or lack thereof) of folk lyrics and their delivery, along with non-electronic instrumentation, “realistic” production values, and even a plain brown paper sack background used for the album’s artwork.

In addition to the usual ensemble of Merritt on ukulele, Claudia Gonson (keyboard, vocals), John Woo (guitar), and Sam Davol (cello), and Shirley Simms (vocals, autoharp), The Magnetic Fields are joined by friends and longtime collaborators Daniel Handler, a.k.a Lemony Snicket (accordion), as well as Johnny Blood (tuba) and Ida Pearle (violin).

The Magnetic Fields
Album art: 
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1. You Must Be Out of Your Mind
2. Interlude
3. We Are Having a Hootenanny
4. I Don't Know What to Say
5. The Dolls' Tea Party
6. Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree
7. Walk a Lonely Road
8. Always Already Gone
9. Seduced and Abandoned
10. Better Things
11. Painted Flower
12. The Dada Polka
13. From a Sinking Boat

Music label: 
Nonesuch Records
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