The Magnetic Fields: Distortion

Following 1999's synth-less I, Magnetic Fields are back behind the keys on Distortion. The first half's only real standout is "California Girls," as the other tracks simply play into the band's established shtick. The second half shines, however, beginning with the sweetly haunting "Please Stop Dancing," which will grace numerous mixtapes and CDs as winter segues into spring. "Too Drunk to Dream" is evidence that Stephen Merritt's formula hasn't been completely exhausted, but it's also a reminder of how comparatively lackluster the first few tracks seem. "Till the Bitter End" evokes a lost Ennio Morricone composition; "I'll Dream Alone" is genuinely heartfelt; "Nun's Litany" is in the same boat as "Too Drunk to Dream," with enough depravity to shock neophytes but a soul that longs for the seemingly impossible. "Zombie Boy" stumbles and finally falls flat, killing the momentum before the disc ends with the solid "Courtesans." Though falling short of the mark set by 69 Love Songs, Distortion sounds less accessible than I, which — considering the band's catalog — makes it sound like more of a success.

 
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