AOTY 2021
The Magnetic Fields - 50 Song Memoir
Critic Score
Based on 22 reviews
2017 Ratings: #30 / 898
User Score
Based on 160 ratings
2017 Ratings: #187
Liked by 2 people
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The Independent
It’s effectively a big dress-up box of musical styles, eagerly mismatched into clashing outfits that cast their own commentaries on Merritt’s unreliably narrated quasi-memories.
The 405

50 Song Memoir is as much the story of Stephin Merritt’s life as it is a love letter to song. It is a certifiable masterpiece and one that music lovers ‘round the world will not soon forget.

A.V. Club

By virtue of its lyrical openness and the fact that the album cycles through more than 100 instruments, 50 Song Memoir, despite having fewer tracks, eclipses 69 Love Songs in terms of its ambition. And though it lacks its predecessor’s immediate accessibility, it benefits from an aesthetic texture that’s grander, darker, and more satisfying, if only for the sense that memoirs don’t have to be confessional; they can tell a life’s story through tone and structure in addition to words.

Loud and Quiet
By shedding some light on himself, he’s stepped out of the shadow of ‘69 Love Songs’. ‘50 Song Memoir’ is a true triumph.

What lingers, along with the musical brilliance and uncharacteristic openness of his 50 Song Memoir, is Merritt's humour; his distinctive baritone delivering countless witty sardonic kernels, sometimes assisted by a well-timed dramatic pause, all wrapped up in catchy, unforgettable songs.

The Line of Best Fit
The whole project peaks and dips as anyone would expect from such an unwieldy beast, yet it's always at the very least melodically memorable, lyrically light-footed and instrumentally fairly mental.
Drowned in Sound

Merritt has lifted the curtain JUST enough to draw us that bit more into his world, while still maintaining both his brilliantly singular world-view and style AND enough distance for us to look on in abject admiration.

His second Big Statement doesn’t attempt to do for life what he did for love. It warrants a completely different type of listening and succeeds as writing even if Merritt’s attempts at a more expressive vocal occasionally irritate and five volumes of aural information portioned out in 28-minute chunks is still a damn lot to absorb. But you won’t be sorry to retain a single minute.

It’s an audial autobiography, an optimistic rarity with fulfilling results.

Consequence of Sound
An unprecedented two-and-a-half-hour journey into the typically guarded Merritt’s life, the album is as revealing as it is resonant.
Pretty Much Amazing

I could fruitlessly compare it to its spiritual predecessor all day, but I’ll say this instead: if you compiled every other album The Magnetic Fields has released since 1999 into one 55-track album, 50 Song Memoir would absolutely blow it out of the water.


There are very few working songwriters who could have pulled off this sort of a project this well, and even fewer who could make this giant-sized song cycle feel so intimate and accessible. 50 Song Memoir is a rare example of Stephin Merritt offering a look into his offstage life, but just as importantly it's a reminder of why he's a truly great songwriter, and this ranks with his finest work.

The Guardian
It’s an album worthy of Merritt’s grand half-century.

By the album’s end ... the songs begin to lack the cultural context that distinguished the earlier ones, and 50 Song Memoir borders on morphing into just Several More Love Songs.

The Needle Drop

While not a full commitment to its titular concept, 50 Song Memoir is The Magnetic Fields' most charming and ambitious album in over a decade.


50 Song Memoir might not lift itself into the same orbit of greatness as its gargantuan twin, but it’s still a strong work from one of the most singular songwriters of the last 30 years.

It was kinda hard rating this one, but I went and did it. There isn't a terrible song on this, but the overall vibe wasn't perfect. The songs rated "not sure" are just more gloomy ones that I need to be in the mood for.

Good Songs: 30/50
Not Sure: 20/50
Bad Songs: 0/50
Stephin Merritt's The Magnetic Fields return with another huge, incredibly ambitious new album, this time as a semi-auto-biographical project that loosely recalls each year of the artist's life in hedonistic, satirical ways, always counting on his expressive baritone vocal work and with an outstanding, over 100-instruments arsenal that slowly, patiently build his own version of the world, everyday events and relationship evaluations. Well, listening to 50 Song Memoir in its entirety is ... read more
'66: Wonder Where I'm From ~ ★★★★☆
'67: Come Back as a Cockroach ~ ★★★★☆
'68: A Cat Called Dionysus ~ ★★★★☆
'69: Judy Garland ~ ★★★★☆
'70: They're Killing Children over There ~ ★★★☆☆
'71 I Think I'll Make Another World ~ ★★★★☆
'72: Eye Contact ~ ★★☆☆☆
'73: It Could Have Been Paradise ~ ★★★☆☆
'74: No ~ ★★★★★
'75: My Mama Ain't ~ ★★★☆☆

'76: Hustle 76 ~ ★★★★☆
'77: Life Ain't All Bad ~ ... read more
Ambitious and grand, I really enjoyed listening to this front to back and the concept behind the record, obviously there's bound to be quite a bit of filler between the 50 tracks provided here but the overall feel of this record is pretty damn great.

Best Track: '76: Hustle 76
Worst Track: '91: The Day I Finally...
The same big problem I have with '69 Love Songs' is present on this album: unnecessarily long albums, in fact I have no problems with the albums of long duration, as long as they manage to keep me waiting for more until the end. I really like the sound that Stephin Merritt and co. creates in this work, the usual Indie/Synth/Chamber Pop characteristic in his previous works, but all the merit, under my humble and inexperienced opinion, is overshadowed by the excess of filler songs to complete the ... read more
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Track List

  1. '66: Wonder Where I'm From
  2. '67: Come Back as a Cockroach
  3. '68: A Cat Called Dionysus
  4. '69: Judy Garland
  5. '70: They're Killing Children Over There
  6. '71 I Think I'll Make Another World
  7. '72: Eye Contact
  8. '73: It Could Have Been Paradise
  9. '74: No
  10. '75: My Mama Ain't
  11. '76: Hustle 76
  12. '77: Life Ain't All Bad
  13. '78: The Blizzard Of '78
  14. '79: Rock'n'Roll Will Ruin Your Life
  15. '80: London by Jetpack
  16. '81: How to Play the Synthesizer
  17. '82: Happy Beeping
  18. '83: Foxx and I
  19. '84: Danceteria!
  20. '85: Why I Am Not a Teenager
  21. '86: How I Failed Ethics
  22. '87: At the Pyramid
  23. '88: Ethan Frome
  24. '89: The 1989 Musical Marching Zoo
  25. '90: Dreaming in Tetris
  26. '91: The Day I Finally...
  27. '92: Weird Diseases
  28. '93: Me and Fred and Dave and Ted
  29. '94: Haven't Got a Penny
  30. '95: A Serious Mistake
  31. '96: I'm Sad!
  32. '97: Eurodisco Trio
  33. '98: Lovers' Lies
  34. '99: Fathers in the Clouds
  35. '00: Ghosts of the Marathon Dancers
  36. '01: Have You Seen It in the Snow?
  37. '02: Be True to Your Bar
  38. '03: The Ex and I
  39. '04: Cold-Blooded Man
  40. '05: Never Again
  41. '06: "Quotes"
  42. '07: In the Snow White Cottages
  43. '08: Surfin'
  44. '09: Till You Come Back to Me
  45. '10: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  46. '11: Stupid Tears
  47. '12: You Can Never Go Back to New York
  48. '13: Big Enough for Both of Us
  49. '14: I Wish I Had Pictures
  50. '15: Somebody's Fetish
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Added on: December 7, 2016