Stephin Merritt’s collection of previously unreleased tracks and outtakes from his stint with Merge Records in the late 90s, Obscurities, shows listeners the many sides of an artist during one of his most creative periods.
Obscurities is predictably all over the place, but it hangs together better than one might expect. This collection brings together rare tracks from Merritt's projects like The Magnetic Fields, Buffalo Rome, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and some unreleased tracks from an unfinished musical called Song from Venus that Merritt worked on with Daniel Handler, the mind behind Lemony Snicket.
The alternate versions of Magnetic Fields’ songs are mostly filler except for a lovely version of “Plant White Roses” by Buffalo Rome sung by Susan Anway. The big draw is the previously unreleased tracks.
“Forever and a Day,” “Scream (Till You Make The Scene)” and “The Song From Venus” all make the listener wonder how awesome this science fiction musical could have been. “Forever and a Day” is a gentle wedding march that ranks among Merritt’s better love songs.
“The Sun and The Sea and The Sky” is a simple acoustic song about finding comfort in nature that didn’t make the cut for 69 Love Songs, but now it shines among other b-sides.
Obscurities may sound like a collection of cast-offs, but I would rather press play on these cast-offs and be reminded of Merritt’s most prolific years than reach from some of his recent releases.
Obscurities will be released by Merge Records on August 23.