The 6ths

Hyacinths and Thistles

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Stephin Merritt's the 6ths' second album isn't nearly as dynamic as his Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, nor is it quite as good as the first 6ths' album, Wasps' Nests. It is, however, another crowning achievement for Merritt. "As You Turn to Go," with Scottish eccentric Momus, is one of Merritt's most moving love songs, a tender, irony-free caress. And the atmospheric "Oahu" wraps its spare melody in a package of primitive synth beeps (which repeat the same tranquil loop for the album's concluding 25 minutes). Hyacinths and Thistles falls between Merritt's two musical passions: old-style songwriting and '80s new wave. But the abundant, and diverse, choice of vocalists here (including Sally Timms, Bob Mould, Melanie, Gary Numan, and Marc Almond) puts the accent on the song, rather than the singer. Take this as Merritt the songwriter's demo tape, indication of what he is capable of.

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