The Magnetic Fields (named after the André Breton/Philippe Soupault novel Les Champs Magnétiques) is an American indie pop group founded and led by Stephin Merritt. He is the group’s primary songwriter, producer and vocalist, as well as frequent multi-instrumentalist. The Magnetic Fields is essentially a vehicle for Merritt’s songwriting, as are various side-projects, such as The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes and The Gothic Archies. While the musical style of the band is as malleable as Merritt’s songwriting, its songs are commonly attributed to pop genres such as synthpop, indie pop, Baroque popand noise pop. The band is often cited as being recognizable by Merritt’s lyrics, often about love and often with irregular or neutral gender roles, that are by turns ironic, tongue-in-cheek, bitter, and humorous.
The band released their debut single “100,000 Fireflies” in 1991, which was typical of the band’s earlier career characterized by synthesized instrumentation by Merritt with lead vocals provided by Susan Anway (and then by Stephin Merritt himself from The House of Tomorrow EP onwards). A more traditional band later materialized, currently composed of Merritt, Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, and John Woo, with occasional guest vocals by Shirley Simms. Their best-known work is the 1999 three-volume concept album 69 Love Songs. It was followed in the succeeding years by a “no-synth” trilogy: i(2004), Distortion (2008), and Realism (2010). The band’s most recent album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, was released in 2012.