The Magnetic Fields’ Quickies five 7" vinyl box set is twenty-eight new short songs by Stephin Merritt, ranging in length from thirteen seconds to two minutes and thirty-five seconds, performed by Merritt and band members Sam Davol, Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms, and John Woo, along with longtime friends and collaborators Chris Ewen, Daniel Handler, and Pinky Weitzman. "Miniature gems," says the Guardian. "Extraordinary."
The Magnetic Fields’ Quickies was released on Nonesuch Records on May 29, 2020. The five 7" vinyl box set features twenty-eight new short songs by Stephin Merritt, ranging in length from thirteen seconds to two minutes and thirty-five seconds. The digital albm was released on May 15; a single CD on June 19.
Merritt explains his thinking behind the Quickies concept: “I’ve been reading a lot of very short fiction, and I enjoyed writing 101 Two-Letter Words, the poetry book about the shortest words you can use in Scrabble. And I’ve been listening to a lot of French baroque harpsichord music. Harpsichord doesn’t lend itself to languor. So I’ve been thinking about one instrument at a time, playing for about a minute or so and then stopping, and I’ve been thinking of narratives that are only a few lines long.
“Also, I had been using a lot of small notebooks, so when I reach the bottom of the page, I’ve only gone a short way. Now that I’m working on a different album, I’m enforcing a large notebook rule so that I don’t do Quickies twice in a row.”
Quickies features Merritt and other Magnetic Fields band members Sam Davol, Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms, and John Woo. They are joined by longtime friends and collaborators Chris Ewen, Daniel Handler, and Pinky Weitzman.
To date, Stephin Merritt has written and recorded twelve Magnetic Fields albums, including the beloved 69 Love Songs and the 2017 critically acclaimed Nonesuch box set, 50 Song Memoir, which chronicled the first fifty years of the songwriter’s life with one song per year. New York magazine called the box set “a celebration of Merritt’s sky-high range as a writer and a player, through the exploration of the circumstances that helped cultivate it … a delightful flip through the untold back pages of one of rock’s most singular voices, and, all in all, the best damned Magnetic Fields album in the last ten years.” Merritt has also composed original music and lyrics for several music theater pieces, including an off-Broadway stage musical of Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline, for which he received an Obie Award. In 2014, Merritt composed songs and background music for the first musical episode of public radio’s This American Life. Stephin Merritt also releases albums under the band names the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes.
Cottage Sounds, Brooklyn, NY, by Charles Newman
Decibelle, San Francisco, CA, by Cody Hamilton
Mad Oak, Boston, MA, by Benny Grotto
Mixed with Charles Newman at Cottage Sounds
Mastered by Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless, Newton, MA
Design: Evan Gaffney
Photography: Stephin Merritt, Shirley Simms
Stephin Merritt, vocals (1, 4, 6–9, 12, 15, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28), banjolele (4, 6, 19, 20), cigar box ukulele (11, 13, 18, 21), Moog instruments (12), ARP Axxe (15), hand-played drum machine (15, 20), electric guitar (15), Avante Veillette guitar (22), Mellotron (24), Omnichord (26), Wurlizter electric piano (28), background vocals (25)
Claudia Gonson, vocals (3, 14, 17, 23), one-hand piano (3, 17, 22), cigar box percussion (11, 13, 18, 21), background vocals (2, 4–11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 25–28)
Shirley Simms, vocals (2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 25, 27), three-chord autoharp (1, 7, 9, 16, 27), whispers (9), Omnichord (15, 20, 26, 28), background vocals (1, 4, 7, 20, 26)
John Woo, unamplified electric guitars (2, 8, 10, 14), cigar box guitar (11, 13, 18, 21)
Pinky Weitzman, cigar box and Stroh violins (11, 13, 18, 21)
Sam Davol, wine box cello (11, 13, 18, 21), cello (15, 24, 28)
Chris Ewen, prepared piano (20, 24), Mellotron (24)
Benny Grotto, Optigan percussion (24)
Daniel Handler, accordion (25), celeste (25)