Stephin Merritt's Magnetic Fields, after detouring for album-length considerations of "Distortion" and the letter "i," have returned to love, the concept they cleverly tackled in the landmark "69 Love Songs."
For "Love at the Bottom of the Sea" (Merge), there are more clever short stories -- starting boldly with the new-wave tale of abstinence "God Wants Us to Wait" paired with the joyous, Beach Boys-styled pop of "Andrew in Drag."
Aside from building memorable melodies and clever one-liners, Merritt's biggest talent may be his brevity. None of the songs breaks three minutes, yet he can craft a fully formed, murderous world in "Your Girlfriend's Face," declaring, "I've taken a contract out on y'all for making me feel incredibly small."
Though most of the album elegantly centers on spare, electro-pop, the most memorable track is "All She Cares About Is Mariachi," where Merritt invents a new electro-Mariachi genre to charmingly match his lyrics.
"Love at the Bottom of the Sea" may not have the depth or the ambition of the "69 Love Songs" cycle, but it certainly delivers a good time.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS
"Love at the Bottom of the Sea"
BOTTOM LINE Witty, pithy tales of modern love