the magnetic fields – distortion (nonesuch)
stephin merritt suffers from a condition called hyperacusis, in which loud sounds produce feedback in his left ear. it was thus probably only a matter of time that the magnetic fields did an album like distortion in giving us a little experience of what merritt probably hears all day long, even when he plays the piano. indeed, the distortions ravage the sweetest instruments, even as the songs remain stubbornly and distinctively theirs. and that’s what sets this album apart from the rest of the resurgent noisepop records we’ve all heard this year – merritt’s songwriting actually surfaces pretty effortlessly above the noise, with his wry stories of nuns’ fantasies, the lives of courtesans, and why he hates california girls.