Music but not jazz (you’re welcome)

You either like The Magnetic Fields or you do not like The Magnetic Fields. There is no try. You either think their epic 69 Love Songs is one of the great, hilarious, heartbreaking, weird and sometimes terrible records of all time, or you do not. There is no hemming, and certainly no hawing.

If you’ve never heard The Magnetic Fields and are at all keen to see where you may end up on this spectrum, I recommend listening to their newish song, You Must Be Out of Your Mind – a tune that, I’m sure most fans would agree, condenses into three minutes much of what The Magnetic Fields are about (brooding, despair, sarcasm, crazy lovers, crazier ex-lovers, baritone and general, all-round jangliness). Stephin Merritt writes a lot of lines that make you cringe, and a lot more lines that make you wish you’d written those lines.

From the second verse of You Must Be Out of Your Mind:

You can’t go round just saying stuff because it’s pretty/And I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty.

Other current songs of awesomeness:

Answer to Yourself, The Soft Pack – If you’re an aspiring hipster, you can say things like, “I liked them back when they were called The Muslims and they had credibility, man.” Sure, people will punch you in the face when you say this, but that’s the price of being a hipster. Also, you have to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. No one said being a hipster would be tasty. (When I was in university, we used to listen to The Cult before exams to psyche/wake ourselves up. I recommend that current university students use this song. It’s a real psycher-upper… so long as you don’t dwell on the lyrics about thinking you’re going to die and everything.)

September Gurls, Big Star – Not a new song by any means, but back in the rotation for death-based reasons. Children by the millions…

Got Nuffin, Spoon – I listened to the new Spoon record, Transference, and didn’t like it. Then I listened to it again and I loved it. There hasn’t been a flip-flop this abrupt since every single thing Stephen Harper did last week.

Ain’t No Grave, Johnny Cash – It’s becoming apparent that Johnny Cash may have died from Rick Rubin working him to death.

Heaven Can Wait, Charlotte Gainsbourg – She’s mostly French but her music is mostly not. And that’s mostly fine by me, because that way I can mostly understand it.

Method Acting/Cortez the Killer, Dave Rawlings Machine – An epic 10-minute number that covers both Bright Eyes and Neil Young. On iTunes, you have to buy the whole record to get this song – which I did, because I’m the world’s foremost impulse buyer of everything that can be bought impulsively: music, books, gum, politicians, ponies… When ultimately I declare bankruptcy, the reason will be “one-clickedness.”

Norway, Beach House – Entire chorus: “Norway-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay/Norway-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay.” Can’t wait to see what they do with Sweden.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.