Holiday (The Magnetic Fields album)

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Holiday
The magnetic fields holiday album cover.jpg
Studio album by The Magnetic Fields
Released September 27, 1994
Recorded 1993
Genre Synthpop, indie pop
Length 36:20
Label Feel Good All Over, Merge
Producer Stephin Merritt
The Magnetic Fields chronology
The Charm of the Highway Strip
(1994)The Charm of the Highway Strip1994
Holiday
(1994)
Get Lost
(1995)Get Lost1995

Holiday is the fourth studio album by American indie pop band The Magnetic Fields. The album was actually the third to be recorded, and was intended to be released through the label Feel Good All Over prior to The Charm of the Highway Strip. However, due to the label delaying its release for over a year, it would not emerge until five months after its' successor. It was later reissued by Merge Records in 1999.

Background[edit]

During the recording of Holiday, original Magnetic Fields vocalist Susan Anway left the band, moving from the band's native Massachusetts to Arizona.[1] Rather than search for a new vocalist for the band, Merritt decided to sing the songs he had been writing instead.[2] Nonetheless, an alternate version of Holiday closing track "Take Ecstasy with Me" with Anway on vocals featured on the compilation Oh, Merge: A Merge Records 10 Year Anniversary Compilation (1999).[2]

Music[edit]

Holiday features a synthpop sound,[3][4] particularly one reminiscent of the genre's early 1980s heyday.[1] Steve Mason of AllMusic compared the album's sound to Architecture & Morality-era Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.[1] While the songs on the album are accessible and melodic, they nonetheless exude a "chilly tone" and fondness for what Mason described as "odd noises and unexpected accents."[1]

Merritt's instrumentation on the album consists of simply "a closetful of early Casio, Yamaha and other keyboards," which Merritt layers over each other.[5] Trouser Press felt the album consists of songs with Casio keyboards as their foundation, albeit "accessorized" with "the unconventional bookends of Johny Blood's tuba and Sam Davol's cello."[6] Doug Bleggi of Stereogum felt the album blurs the line between guitars and synthesisers.[4]

Holiday opens with "BBC Radiophonic Workshop," named after the electronic pioneers of the same name. With its lo-fi production and combination of synthesised and acoustic instrumentation, the 20-second track features an "oddly eccentric looping of tones."[2] "Desert Island" makes use of fuzzy reverb.[2] "Deep Sea Diving Suit" makes use of a jew harp-style sound. Len Comaratta of Consequence of Sound wrote: "The upbeat, quirky, plucking sound associated with the instrument sails along as if it was bed music to the song itself."[2]

Stephen Merritt sings in a deep baritone voice.[1] Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork compared his vocals on the album to Calvin Johnson.[5] In the words of Mason, the phrasing of the album's lyrics "vacillates mostly between the poles of deadpan wryness and romantic longing" and, with their "striking imagery" and "Cole Porter-level rhymes," mix mordant wit with unabashed romanticism.[1]

Release[edit]

Though Holiday was completed in 1993, it took a long time for John Henderson, the owner of the band's then-current label Feel Good All Over, to release it on the label, and by the time the label did eventually release it in 1994, the band had signed to Merge Records which had already released their fourth recorded album, The Charm of the Highway Strip that April. The close release dates of the two albums meant that some magazines reviewed the albums together, which annoyed Merritt.[7] It has also been speculated that this would have meant consumers would buy one of the two albums, but not both.[7]

In anticipation of the band's then-upcoming 69 Love Songs album,[5] Merge Records re-released Holiday on January 12, 1999, alongside a re-release of The House of Tomorrow.[8]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[9]
Christgau's Consumer Guide(3-star Honorable Mention)[10]
Pitchfork8.8/10[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[11]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[12]

Stewart Mason of AllMusic rated the album four stars out of five, commenting that "[the] songwriting is a huge leap beyond the first two Magnetic Fields albums" and felt that "[e]very track here is a winner."[3] Robert Christgau gave the song a three-star honorary rating, quipping the album contains "more songs about songs and songs" and highlighted "Strange Powers" and "Swinging London".[10] Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork called the album a "classic" and "definitely an inspired record."[5]

Legacy[edit]

The intro of "The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent" was used in an episode ("Nightcrawlers") of Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete & Pete. The song "Strange Powers" was used in an episode ("Forget the Herring") of HBO's Bored to Death.

In 2017, Exclaim! ranked Holiday second in their list of Stephen Merritt's best albums,[3] and Stereogum ranked Holiday fifth in their list of Stephin Merritt albums rated from worst to best.[4]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Stephin Merritt.

No.TitleLength
1."BBC Radiophonic Workshop"0:22
2."Desert Island"3:34
3."Deep Sea Diving Suit"2:05
4."Strange Powers"2:41
5."Torn Green Velvet Eyes"4:22
6."The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent"2:26
7."Swinging London"2:35
8."In My Secret Place"1:41
9."Sad Little Moon"2:12
10."The Trouble I've Been Looking For"2:23
11."Sugar World"3:19
12."All You Ever Do Is Walk Away"2:06
13."In My Car"2:57
14."Take Ecstasy with Me"3:30

Personnel[edit]

The Magnetic Fields
Additional personnel
  • Johny Blood – tuba

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mason, Stewart. "Holiday – Magnetic Fields". AllMusic. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Comaratta, Len (13 August 2011). "Dusting 'Em Off: The Magnetic Fields Holiday". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 18 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Hudson, Alex (February 28, 2017). "An Essential Guide to Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields". Exclaim. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Bleggi, Doug (March 13, 2017). "Stephin Merritt Albums From Worst To Best". Stereogum. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Schreiber, Ryan. "Magnetic Fields: Holiday". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on September 23, 2003. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  6. ^ Sprague, David; Partsch, Bill; Robbins, Ira. "TrouserPress.com :: Magnetic Fields". Trouser Press. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Ballance, Laura; Cook, John; McCaughan, Mac (September 15, 2009). Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books. p. 127. ISBN 1565126246. Retrieved September 9, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Upcoming Releases". CMJ New Music Monthly. 57 (600): 33. 28 December 1998. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  9. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Holiday – Magnetic Fields". AllMusic. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2000). "Magnetic Fields: Holiday". Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  11. ^ Randall, Mac (2004). "The Magnetic Fields". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 509–10. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  12. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.