Best Albums of 2008: #2: The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
2. The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
Truth be told, Distortion started off way lower on the list. For some reason, in memory it is never as great as in experience, a fault that I attribute to the very idea of the concept album. In memory, Distortion will always be that album in which Stephin Merritt tried his hand at Psychocandy, just as i will always be the album on which every song starts with the letter “I” (rather than the album that features career-defining songs like “I thought you were my boyfriend” and “I don’t believe you).
There is something, though, about the experience of listening to any of these albums that makes you think to yourself, this is the kind of extraordinary genius that lesser songwriters only wish they could achieve. There is immense risk and creativity involved in every song, every album, the kind of creativity that manages to include its own voice no matter what form it takes. I’ve spent almost half of my life listening to Stephin Merritt’s work and I honestly fall in love with him again with each song.
The experience of Distortion, to me, was like going on a bunch of dates with someone who, at first, I found boring despite their quirks, but eventually came to understand and love. Their jokes were always funny but it felt like something was hiding, and when it finally came out it, the fact that I had slowly fallen in love hit me really hard. You know what I am talking about—that moment in which all of the excesses seem to fall away and you are confronted with something much smarter and more significant than you are.
Anyway, that is kind of how all of my Stephin Merritt experiences go, in one way or another, but each one gives me a different form or substance to latch onto after the initial honeymoon period has fizzled away. With Distortion, it was the snarkiness and willingness to create ridiculous characters that are altogether unashamed of who they are. They do not apologize for wielding axes or having forbidden fantasies, and despite being fictional characters, they feel more authentic than most people I know. And I’m kind of in love with all of them.
Best of 2008: #3: Deerhunter: Microcastle
Best of 2008: #4: The Walkmen: You & Me
Best of 2008: #5: Gentleman Jesse and His Men
Best of 2008: #6: Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
Best of 2008: #7: Okkervil River: The Stand-ins
Best of 2008: #8: MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
Best of 2008: #9: Streetlight Manifesto: Somewhere in the Between
Best of 2008: #10: M83: Saturdays=Youth
Best of 2008: #11: TV On the Radio: Dear Science
Best of 2008: #12: Mount Eerie: Lost Wisdom
Best of 2008: #13: Cloud Cult: Feel Good Ghosts
Best of 2008: #14: Ratatat: LP3
Best of 2008: #15: The Submarines: Honeysuckle Weeks
Best of 2008: #16: Grand Archives: S/T
Best of 2008: #17: Yelle: Pop-up
Best of 2008: #18: Parenthetical Girls: Entanglements
Best of 2008: #19: The Gaslight Anthem- The '59 Sound
Best of 2008: #20: Billy Bragg- Mr. Love and Justice
Best of 2008: Intro