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Stephen Merritt

Pieces of April (Soundtrack)
Nonesuch

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If only the rocky seas of love were as smooth as Stephin Merritt's voice on the Pieces Of April soundtrack, the world would be a much happier place.

 

Merritt, who mainly performs with The Magnetic Fields, gained a reputation for being one of the most prolific and talented songwriters ever after the 1999 release of 69 Love Songs, a collection of sweet, sad, and oftentimes funny music about lust, love, and infatuation. Pieces of April, which contains three of the original 69 Love Songs, seems like a logical extension of the 1999 box set.

 

The music itself is amazing, something fans have come to expect from Merritt. And the lyrics again set the mood for love, but not in the traditional way. Merritt works with words to capture the ups and downs of the proverbial love roller coaster. This is not an album you wouldn't necessarily put on if you were going to get down to business with your sweetheart, unless you were OK with them knowing that, sometimes, they drove you straight into the depths of depression.

 

Merritt sings about that stage when your heart is vulnerable, totally in the hands of someone else, and there's nothing to catch you -- you've already jumped. Sometimes, your love interest takes your heart and tenderly caresses it with sweet acoustic guitar and a soothing falsetto; other times, he or she reaches into your chest, rips it out and stomps on it in front of you to the beat of heavy synthesizers and deep, distorted vocals.

 

Merritt reins in the butterflies you feel at the beginning -- that point before you can read the other person's mind, where you're fidgeting in your chair at the movies wondering at the if you'll fight him for the arm rest. But then you find out he doesn't like you, and all of a sudden, Merritt takes on a different meaning. Bury your head in your pillow and rock back and forth awkwardly while you contemplate what a loser you are and how no one normal will ever love you, you freak-magnet.

 

Pieces of April is just the type of CD that you want to hug the case of when you catch the hot kid in your English class staring at you, but the type that you want to slam to the ground and smash to a thousand tiny little pieces when you see him leave with the girl with the horrid taste in hats.

 

Really, whatever feelings about love you bring to this disc are what you'll take away from it; it's this versatility that makes it a masterpiece. But with such duality, Merritt has really captured the essence and frustration of being infatuated with someone -- as healthy or unhealthy as it might be.

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