For any other artist, an album comprising 50 explicitly autobiographical songs for each year of their life would be seen as the height of narcissism, a swollen vanity project for the benefit of no one but the author. Fortunately, Stephen Merritt is quite unlike any other artist, and his latest conceptual sprawl provides a fascinating glimpse into the personal, political, and cultural epochs that shaped the half-century of American life he’s lived through. But more than that, The Magnetic Fields man’s storytelling of the events that take place across 50 Song Memoir never seeks to delineate between history and pop culture, fact and emotion, tragedy and farce. Like Morrissey just before him (and, by proxy, Wilde), Merritt cares far too much about life to take it seriously.
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