It’s now been more than 20 years since Stephin Merritt’s Magnetic Fields released the triple-LP conceptual pop masterpiece 69 Love Songs. Today, Merritt and his group have announced another grand project: A quintuple EP made up only of short songs. This spring, the Magnetic Fields will release Quickies, the follow-up to 2017’s even-bigger, even-higher-concept 50 Song Memoir. Quickies is a new box set that will feature 28 new Stephin Merritt songs spread over five EPs. All the songs will be under three minutes. That’s the hook.
As Pitchfork reports, Merritt recorded Quickies with all of his longtime Magnetic Fields bandmates — Sam Davol, Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms, John Woo — as well as regular collaborators Daniel Handler, Chris Ewen, and Pinky Weitzman. The tracklist alone makes it clear that this thing should be fun. Song titles include “Kraftwerk In A Blackout,” “The Biggest Tits In History,” and “When The Brat Upstairs Got A Drum Kit.”
Lead single “The Day The Politicians Died” is a lovely and plangent two-minute piano ballad with a Claudia Gonson vocal. It imagines a hypothetical day in which all of our lawmakers suddenly left this mortal plane: “Billions laughed and no one cried the day the politicians died/ Celebrations spread worldwide the day the politicians died. Its video sets the song to ancient footage of victory celebrations. Below, listen to the song and check out the Quickies tracklist and what Merritt has to say about the project.
According to Pitchfork, Merritt says:
I’ve been reading a lot of very short fiction, and I enjoyed writing 101 Two-Letter Words, the poetry book about the shortest words you can use in Scrabble. And I’ve been listening to a lot of French baroque harpsichord music. Harpsichord doesn’t lend itself to languor. So I’ve been thinking about one instrument at a time, playing for about a minute or so and then stopping, and I’ve been thinking of narratives that are only a few lines long.
Also, I had been using a lot of small notebooks, so when I reach the bottom of the page, I’ve only gone a short way. Now that I’m working on a different album, I’m enforcing a large notebook rule so that I don’t do Quickies twice in a row.
01 “Castles of America”
02 “The Biggest Tits in History”
03 “The Day the Politicians Died”
04 “Castle Down a Dirt Road”
05 “Bathroom Quickie”
06 “My Stupid Boyfriend”
07 “Love Gone Wrong”
08 “Favorite Bar”
09 “Kill a Man a Week”
10 “Kraftwerk in a Blackout”
11 “When She Plays the Toy Piano”
12 “Death Pact (Let’s Make A)”
13 “I’ve Got a Date with Jesus”
14 “Come, Life, Shaker Life!”
15 “(I Want to Join A) Biker Gang”
16 “Rock ‘n’ Roll Guy”
17 “You’ve Got a Friend in Beelzebub”
18 “Let’s Get Drunk Again (And Get Divorced)”
19 “The Best Cup of Coffee in Tennessee”
20 “When the Brat Upstairs Got a Drum Kit”
21 “The Price You Pay”
22 “The Boy in the Corner”
23 “Song of the Ant”
24 “I Wish I Had Fangs and a Tail”
25 “Evil Rhythm”
26 “She Says Hello”
27 “The Little Robot Girl”
28 “I Wish I Were a Prostitute Again”
Quickies is out 5/15 on Nonesuch.