If there's one thing of which no one can fairly accuse Stephin Merritt, the perpetually grumpy front man for the Magnetic Fields and several other bands, it's being out of ideas. Realism, the band's follow-up to last year's Distortion, switches between several different styles, but always with the typical lo-fi electronic sound that we've come to associate with them. Based on my first few listens, I prefer Realism to Distortion, but that could change in the future. Songs that immediately grabbed me include the faux-country "We Are Having a Hootenanny" and the probably deceptively upbeat "The Dolls' Tea Party" and "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree." The latter two actually sound kind of like the stuff on Merritt's Showtunes record. If you're interested, you can watchthis video in which Stephin and Claudia Gonson discuss the title. I like the idea of naming the album after what's likely to be the most common complaint, but I guess that's a more recent thing, as I'm not quite sure how it could apply to, say, Distant Plastic Trees or The Charm of the Highway Strip.
When I bought the album, I also did some browsing for cheap stuff that interested me, and ended up with the following:
Liz Phair, Somebody's Miracle - Although it seemed to be her self-titled fourth album that achieved mainstream popularity, I still don't think she's made anything else that's lived up to her third, whitechocolatespaceeeg. This particular album, which is her fifth, doesn't have anything that really grabs me, but it's still a pretty solid album. I'll have to give both it and the self-titled a few more listens, as I might not be giving them enough of a chance.
Throwing Muses, University - I know a lot of fans of Frank Black and the Pixies also like them, and I thought the songs of theirs that I've heard ("Bright Yellow Gun" and "Portia" being the two main ones) were pretty good, so I gave this a try. As with the Liz album, nothing on it really jumps out at me, but it's an enjoyable listen nonetheless. This is another one that I think might need some time to grow on me.
Shonen Knife, Let's Knife - The cheapest of the three used CDs I bought, but far and away my favorite. Funny how that works. I was marginally familiar with their work before, but this is the first album of theirs that I've heard, and it's really fun pop music. And is that an intentional XTC reference in "Bear Up Bison"? I think I'll have to add some of their other albums to my wishlist.