Jan 172011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

There’s no denying that it takes a versatile artist to write songs about love in ways that are both consistently inventive and precise. It takes an artist like Stephin Merritt to create songs that not only are beautiful individual pieces, but also paint a broader picture of hope and despair, murder and joy, beauty and hideousness. Merritt somehow manages to create a comprehensive picture of love with his songs, all while bringing his distinctive indie-pop sensibility to it. This book of love is never boring. He turns forty-five today.

Merritt is best known for his work with the Magnetic Fields – their exhaustive, three-disc 69 Love Songs has been compared in scope to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest – but you can also find him with the Future Bible Heroes, the 6ths, and the Gothic Archies. He even helmed the soundtrack to the musical theatre adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The imagination inherent to his work provides for astonishing ease of interpretation. Merritt imbues his person so deeply in every track that his work invites other artists to give equally of themselves.

The Shins attest to the influence of Merritt’s work with a cover of the early track “Strange Powers” (an acclaimed documentary of the same title came out this year).
Audrey (Maybe) attacks “100,000 Fireflies” with the kind of vocal layering that Merritt brought to “Abigail, Belle of Kilronan.”
Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman create an oddly serene “Yeah! Oh, Yeah!” that captures the uniquely bored spirit of what may be the strangest murder ballad duet of all time.
• Bodies of Water deliver a cover of “I Don’t Believe in the Sun” replete with church/ballpark organs (take your pick, depending on the mood).
James Eric – who was among our first contributors to Cover Commissions – gives “(Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy” a fitting brand of jumpy, horn-backed vitality.

MP3: The Shins – Strange Powers (The Magnetic Fields cover)

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MP3
: Audrey (Maybe) – 100,000 Fireflies (The Magnetic Fields cover)

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MP3
: Bodies of Water – I Don’t Believe In the Sun (The Magnetic Fields cover)

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MP3
: Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman – Yeah! Oh, Yeah! (The Magnetic Fields cover)

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MP3: James Eric – (Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy (The Magnetic Fields cover)

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Check out more Stephin Merritt at his website.

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  8 Responses to “They Say It’s Your Birthday: Stephin Merritt”

Comments (8)
  1. What about Peter Gabriel’s cover of Book of Love? So good!

  2. What’s your source for “Yeah, Oh Yeah?” It doesn’t sound like Tracey Thorn or Jens Lekman. Good version, but I want to know who it actually is.

  3. Allison – Good call on Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love.” Beautiful cover, which got on our “Best Covers of 2010” ( http://www.covermesongs.com/the-best-cover-songs-of-2010-4 ).

    Michael – It’s from “Score! Twenty Years of Merge Records: The Covers,” which is up on iTunes, but you can also check out the Amazon link for a bit more info: http://www.covermesongs.com/the-best-cover-songs-of-2010-4

  4. Hype Machine lists Yeah, Oh, Yeah! as by “Monica Y Carlos” – a real band, but is it a pseudonym for Tracey and Jens? I have the T&J cover, I’ll have to compare the two… BTW my (married) friends cover that song in their act, it’s a hoot.

  5. OK, it IS Monica Y Carlos. Very peppy. (T&J’s is good too, and DOES sound like them…)

  6. Brent, thanks for your prompt reply, but I regret to inform you that the version you posted is, as Kid Vicious pointed out, the Monica Y Carlos version. I went on itunes as you suggested and I listened to the Tracey/Jens version and it’s quite good. Hopefully, you’ll post that one next year. ;)

  7. You are very right, Michael. Sorry for the mix-up there. The Monica y Carlos version had been in the running to get into this post along with the Tracey/Jens version, but didn’t make it; the file issue must have been a bit of technical difficulty on my part. Sorry for not checking everything out more thoroughly, but no need to wait for the next birthday post. I’ll get it fixed ASAP and the right mp3 will be up here soon.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

  8. File fixed. Thanks for the heads up all!

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