Sunday, October 31st, 2010
The Shins cover The Magnetic Fields
Frank YangTo all outward appearances, Stephin Merritt is a prickly (to put it mildly) curmudgeon whilst James Mercer is unassuming, shy and friendly. And yet while Merritt has somehow managed to maintain the same circle of Magnetic Fields bandmates and collaborators for the better part of two decades and ten albums (plus countless side projects), Mercer’s Shins have had not small amount of musician turnover over just three albums in nine years. Album number four, which should see the light of day in 2011, will retain only bassist Dave Hernandez from past lineups – or so Hernandez hopes.
But managerial styles aside, both Merritt and Mercer have a gift for pop music and a fixture on The Shins’ 2007 tour set list was early Magnetic Fields single “Strange Powers”, which dated back to 1994’s Holiday. Its synthetic nature translates nicely to the traditional guitar-bass-drums format and though Mercer’s voice lives several octaves away from Merritt’s, it doesn’t really sound a lot different from the original. I’m sure more than a few performances were captured on tape/HD, but the two I’ve got are an acoustic studio performance and a live show recording. The former sounds better, the latter has drums.
The Magnetic Fields released Realism earlier this year and Strange Powers, the documentary film on Merritt and his works,
makes its Canadian premiere opens a run at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto this Thursday. James Mercer’s 2010 was devoted to Broken Bells, his project with Danger Mouse.