Vermilion Sands

posted: 2024-05-04 i The Magnetic Fields

released: 2004-05-04
on label: Nonesuch
genre: Indie Pop
with some: Chamber PopChamber Folk
listen at: Apple Bandcamp Spotify
more reviews: The Guardian

After various albums observing love from afar, Stephin Merritt has finally turned his lyrical searchlights on to his own personal life, with 14 songs that all begin with the letter “I”. He may be the most insightful love lyricist around, but is clearly disastrous at it - these are songs filled with betrayal, lies and loving people that think he is “sick”. As a result, i shifts between Herculean passion and self-mutilating wit. “I Die” is intense and unashamedly homoerotic; “I Don’t Really Love You Anymore” is hilariously spiteful.

Musically, i abandons Merritt’s electronic tapestries in favour of ukuleles, cellos, pianos and banjos, the end result being somewhere between Cole Porter and Badly Drawn Boy. Merritt’s lugubrious baritone has never sounded stronger, nor have his songs. The fabulously doleful “I Thought You Were My Boyfriend” could have bounced straight from the Human League’s classic Dare, and could be the most dizzying three minutes of Merritt’s increasingly brilliant career.