Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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STEPHIN MERRITT
Pieces of April
Nonesuch

Soundtrack to a Katie Holmes movie features New York songwriting wizard in several guises

In 1999, Stephin Merritt masterminded the last great monument of twentieth-century pop, the Magnetic Fields' three-CD 69 Love Songs. This brief, budget-priced, 10-song soundtrack-cum-artist sampler is never better than on two of those 69, "I Think I Need a New Heart" and "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side," though "You You You You You," by the 6ths (the second of Merritt's four bands) comes close. The five new songs all feature Merritt's meaningfully inexpressive monotone, shrewdly minimal arrangements and flatly clever lyrics. But only "Dreams Anymore," about a disillusioned beloved living in a nowhere town, achieves the epiphany-in-spite-of-itself that propels a good 50 of the aforementioned 69 beyond the devotion to craft that often seems his only reason for creating.

Blender, Jan. 2004