Stephin Merritt


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B-sides and rarities collections can often help give fans insight into their favorite artists’ creative processes, or at the very least, provide either a light snack between releases or a post-retirement victory lap, but when an artist as prolific as Stephin Merritt decides to clean house, it can be a little underwhelming. Over the years, Merritt's seemingly endless supply of wry, melodic, basement electro-folk songs has required him to use multiple pseudonyms (Magnetic Fields, Buffalo Rome, the 6ths, the Gothic Archies), nearly all which of make an appearance on the Merge-issued Obscurities. At its best, the collection stirs up some left-field gems like “Forever and a Day” and “When You’re Young and in Love," both of which were pulled from an unfinished musical called The Song from Venus, and the breezy Wasps’ Nest outtake “Yet Another Girl,” but the rest tend to play out like the amiable, often lo-fi stopgaps they are, despite boasting some typically sinister, hysterical, gorgeous, and heartbreaking lyrics like “A vodka bottle gave you those raccoon eyes/We got beat up just for holding hands (“Take Ecstasy with Me”).

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