Stephin Merritt

Eban & Charley

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The soundtrack to the James Bolton film Eban & Charley is a nicely low-key and mildly gloomy affair, in keeping with the tenor of much of the music made by Merritt on his regular albums, whether under the Magnetic Fields banner or not. Certainly it's not as important or ambitious as his principal projects, but on the other hand there's less of the clever ostentatiousness that can sometimes drive you up the wall. Just six of the 16 tracks (which total up to just 36 minutes) are vocals, and these are good, if modest, downcast songs, like a mix of vintage Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen updated for the 21st century. The instrumental pieces are more ambient and usually employ environmental noises, nearly avant-garde experimental tinklings on an assortment of instruments, and sparser arrangements, including spooky renditions of "O Tannenbaum" and "Greensleeves." For those who are more appreciative of Merritt's pop inclinations, there are a few good standard songs, like "Some Summer Day," "Water Torture," and "Poppyland," that shouldn't be missed if you have the discretionary income, though a couple of the vocal numbers are brief and rather inconsequential.

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