Tuesday, October 6, 2009

“Let the camera linger on yr. perfect skin…”

For those of you who have seen the film Pieces of April with Katie Holmes, you have probably also heard the work of one my all-time-favorite songwriters, Stephin Merritt. For those of you who haven’t seen Pieces of April, you should! It was directed by Peter Hedges (About a Boy, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) & not only does it star Katie Holmes, but also Patricia Clarkson (Jumanji, Lars & the Real Girl) & Sisqó (that guy that wrote “Thong Song,” strangely enough…). Stephin Merritt does the entire soundtrack for the film, under his own name & also with two of his various projects: The Magnetic Fields & The 6ths.

The 6ths is a project of Stephin Merritt’s in which he asks other various artists to sing songs that he has written both musically & lyrically. It is commonly thought that Merritt created this project after noticing that no one had ever made a tribute album for him, so he made two himself: Wasps’ Nests & Hyacinths & Thistles. The name of this project was chosen, because it is impossible to say without a lisp, as are the names of both of these albums. Some of the most notable singers that perform on these albums are Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. & The Folk Implosion, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, & Gary Numan (& yes, that is the guy that sings that catchiest song of all time, “Cars”).

Hyacinths & Thistles also includes a very unlikely duet of blues/folk singer Odetta (often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”) & author Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events). In “As You Turn to Go” from the video below, Scottish singer Monus performs the vocals. That’s the guy that rephrased Andy Warhol’s quote from my previous post. Weird, huh?

“Let the poets struggle to describe yr. heart,
Yr. art of love & yr. love of art.
Well if you ever loved me tell me so,
As you turn to go.”

Damn, those are some good lyrics… & Monus’ vocals go beautifully with Merritt’s music. That song appeared on the Pieces of April soundtrack, but really all of the tracks on this album are great. However, before Pieces of April, the 6ths wiggled their way onto the American children’s television station, Nickelodeon. Merritt’s works appear many times in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which also featured guest appearances from many notable figures, such as Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, & LL Cool J. The video below features “Falling Out of Love (with You)” with a collage of footage from the television show. It is a proud testament to when children’s television series were actually cool…

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