Magnetic Fields' mastermind Stephin Merritt knows how to write poppy love ballads, and Realism is no exception.

This acoustic album delivers morose lyrics reminiscent of the band's three-CD set, 69 Love Songs, but leaves behind the electronic, reverb-heavy instrumentation. On the first track, Merritt strums his ukulele in a minor key, singing, "You can't go around just saying stuff because it's pretty/And I no longer drink enough to think you're witty," exemplifying the stark and humorous lyrical style the band is known for. Musically, the album exudes a minimal quality, replacing the drum machine with unusual percussion instruments, like actual tree leaves. "We Are Having a Hootenanny" has a childlike quality with an upbeat union of acoustic guitar, banjo, and accordion, while Merritt and vocalist Claudia Gonson chant in unison about having a rootin', tootin' good time. Although Realism differs dramatically from the noisy grunge of the Fields' previous album, Distortion, it is an excellent follow-up.


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