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CD Review: The Magnetic Fields 

Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge)

The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt loves a good theme, right down to his album titles: the self-explanatory 69 Love Songs, the selfish i, the noisy Distortion. After a trio of synth-free records, Merritt restores perfectly discordant synthesizers and a familiar sense of whimsy to the band's 10th album. The opener, "God Wants Us to Wait," combines smartass lyrics with electronic claustrophobia, but the next song, "Andrew in Drag," taps more directly into Merritt's loopy synth-pop-and-wordplay comfort zone ("A pity she does not exist, a shame he's not a fag/The only girl I ever loved is Andrew in drag"), this time redecorated as a tropicalia hymn. Love at the Bottom of the Sea features straightforward songs about hit men ("Your Girlfriend's Face"), ADD love ("Only Boy in Town"), and Tex Mex ("All She Cares About Is Mariachi") — a brilliant concept. — Brian Baker

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