Review Summary: Stephin Merrit proves that gay men always have the best baritones.
Something to note about The Magnetic Fields's Holiday
is that it glows like the radiant summer sun on some carefree, breezy afternoon. It encapsulates a summer environment with its warm tones and textures swirling and coalescing into the image of a perfect holiday vacation, so bright and so involving. And this is in spite of the sprinkles of somber undertones that symbolize both a summer's ending and the infamous idiosyncratic nature of the band's frontman Stephin Merrit, who luckily was able to let The Magnetic Fields embrace his sarcastic wit after the departure of Susan Anway. The fact that now Merrit's lyrics, which had before been vocalized by Ms. Anway, are now sung by the man who penned them, allows the band to better project their meanings to their audience. And it also takes form as one of Holiday
's most prominent features. It's only apt that Merrit's distinctive lyrical tone - one that balances wit, sarcasm and cynicism so that it articulates a glimmer of hope in a not-so-bright situation - be put on Holiday
. The reason being that the fabric of summer days and The Magnetic Fields's character blend into a portrait of a beautiful summer morning.
For example, closer "Take Ecstasy with Me" serves as an emblem for the whole album, melding The Magnetic Fields's engrossing lo-fi indie pop with lyrics about the trials and tribulations of a love lost but certainly not forgotten. He brilliant reflects in his fitting lugubrious baritone, "you used to make gingerbread houses/We used to have taffy pulls." And then he paints a bleaker picture with, "A vodka bottle gave you those raccoon eyes/We got beat up just for holding hands/Take ecstasy with me, baby." Still, the song's melodies soar with a bright demeanor, an example of said swirl of optimistic instrumentation and Merrit's more disarming lyrical bite.
Herein lies one of Holiday
's biggest triumphs: the fact that its dense with textures and personal experiences. Whether they be about growing up gay or feeling isolated, regretful and forgiving, Merrit paints a portrait of life on Holiday
, and then puts it in a lo-fi indie pop package. He stripes it with synth-coated sweetness, romance and dry wit. His sleepy, apt phrasing's placed on top of it and then he weaves a knack for writing textured, delicate pop songs throughout to form the fabric. Not just the fabric of an involving summer vacation, but the fabric of an involving life - romance and all.