Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Andrew in Drag” by The Magnetic Fields from the 2012 album Love at the Bottom of the Sea on Merge.
It’s a modern love story: male falls for male. The catch? He’s a privileged het pining for a fellow het acquaintance who dressed in women’s clothes as a lark, and now he’s destined to “pine away forever more for Andrew in drag.” Funny yet sad, flippant yet incisive — in other words, classic Magnetic Fields lyrics.
During the band’s 20-plus years together, principle songwriter Stephin Merritt has remained as droll as ever, but musically, they’ve tried a wide range of instrumentation and styles, from the digital country of 1994’s The Charm of the Highway Strip to quirky gimmicks of 1999’s Holiday to the noisy guitars of 2008’s aptly named Distortion. On the recent release, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, Merritt and the band create a hybrid sound of synths (a staple of early records but eschewed on the last three) and acoustic instruments (featured most prominently on 2010’s Realism). You can once again hear the Casio-esque rhythms on today’s featured song, but neither the instrumentation nor the soaring vocal choruses can take focus away from Merritt’s characterization of the narrator’s lovelorn state. If you can’t help but giggle at “Andrew in Drag,” you’re going to love the rest of the album’s tragicomedic scenarios — as in “Your Girlfriend’s Face” and “The Horrible Party” — so don’t hesitate to take a trip for Love at the Bottom of the Sea.
The Magnetic Fields don’t tour often enough, but they were recently in town at the Neptune Theater. Stephin Merrit even stopped by KEXP for a unique performance (from our men’s room!) You can watch the session here or stream it from our archive here. Right now they’re in Europe, and you can follow along with all of their exploits on the fantastic Tour at the Bottom of the Sea Blog. Also, check their website, House of Tomorrow, to get more info. For now, feast your eyes on “Andrew in Drag”: