Stephin Merritt – Obscurities review

The first Stephin Merritt-sponsored musical experience was the previously unreleased “Forever And A Day,” from Merritt’s latest compilation album, Obscurities. Tracks from The 6ths, Buffalo Rome and The Gothic Archies (all Merritt side projects) are showcased on Obscurities.

“Forever And A Day” was gorgeous to me. Somewhat nostalgic because it took me back to The Lady and The Tramp time period (the time period the actual movie is set in, not its release). It was the voice and tempo of the song that made my mind trace such a path; a snowy lullaby with a ukulele to bring it together, staying true to the song’s softness but waking it up and giving it modernity from a source that’s hard to place.

It’s almost unfair that “Rats in the Garbage of the Western World,” is the following track. The synth beat and the echo of the vocals are superb (the delivery reminds me a little of The Verve), but you almost need to be eased into dealing with the commentary. That is not to say that “Rats” isn’t worthy, but with its flanking “Forever And A Day,” it’s a bit jarring.

“You seemed to be in love with me…Which isn’t very realistic,” sums up half of the trouble of most of today’s relationships on “I Don’t Believe You.” Buffalo Rome’s Shirley Simms’ vocals have a subduing effect in “Plant White Roses.” Her voice has a subtly that complements the track’s crisp folk guitar melody tremendously. Simms sounds amazing, more so during the chorus.

“When I poured my heart out, blood flowed. I planted you, watered you with tears and watched you grow away from me so much for my green thumb I’ve overstayed my welcome,” Simms discovers.

Merge Records will again have the Magnetic Fields (MagField’s early name was Buffalo Rome) on its label. The release date for the group’s full length LP is set for 2012. In the meantime, the release of Obscurities is classic for Merritt and Magnetic Fields fans. It’s a fantastic display of the Stephin Merritt collection. It provides rounded, more thoughtful insight into the Merritt as an artist with many facets.

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