For "Realism" (Nonesuch), the Magnetic Fields built the musical flip side of its noise-pop predecessor "Distortion." No electric instruments this time. No drums, either. Instead, "Realism" is all fragile melodies and acoustic prettiness, housing the generally dark sentiments of Stephin Merritt. Danger lurks beneath the playful innocence of "We Are Having a Hootenanny." Disappointment drives the pretty "Seduced and Abandoned." "I Don't Know What to Say" is a possibly murderous twist on professing love set to "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys arrangements. It turns out "Realism" is just as twisted as "Distortion."
BOTTOM LINE Sweet acoustic folk with sharp-tongued lyrics