For Magnetic Fields songwriter Stephin Merritt, there’s always an overriding concept at work. It keeps him interested and despite all their quirks, the songs stand on their own for a quick, easy listen. Yet, underneath the surface lurks an adventurous lyricist whose narrators are often vain, self-absorbed, brutally sarcastic, messing with your mind and occasionally glad to see you. Realism concerns Merritt’s love for folk music and its need to be “real.” In its place, Merritt orchestrates a perfectly plastic world where acoustic instruments tinker away (look ma, no synths!) and Claudia Gonson and Shirley Simms offer a beautifully sunny disposition reminiscent of the free-flowing pop of the Free Design. ”You Must Be Out Of Your Mind” is standard Magnetic Fields with Merritt’s baritone croak demanding subservience. “Seduced and Abandoned” throws the horns and banjo into a German drinking song with debts to Tin Pan Alley. “The Dada Polka” addresses “people of Earth” with a catchy chorus. “Painted Flower” and “Always Already Gone” evoke rainy day Parisian pop with perfection.