The Magnetic Fields have hit the jackpot on their eighth album, Distortion. Frontman Stephen Merritt ignored his penchant for “cleverness and theatricality,” turned up the “1960s pop fetish,” and let the feedback roll. It’s a rebound from 2004’s i, says Pitchfork’s Matt LeMay, which was both flat and stagy. This time around, “a new level of messy” adds depth to Merritt’s talented songwriting.
It’s those fuzzy and chaotic elements that keep the Fields from “slipping into fey preciousness.” The Onion’s Jason Heller adds another angle on Distortion’s distortion: Unlike post-punkers Jesus and Mary Chain—Merritt’s avowed inspirations on this record—the noise element is reserved rather than violent, lending him the gift of flexibility.