In the mid-1950s, French director François Truffaut first proposed the idea of the Auteur Theory in film (auteur = French for author). The idea that a (good) director is the true author of the film; that regardless of how industrial or collaborative the filmmaking process may be, that a (good) director's distinctive vision, personal expression, and promotion of particular themes will make their films unmistakably identifiable.

Although there is considerable controversy surrounding this notion (who writes the stories to begin with?), then I have always admired those creative figures whose sheer force of vision seeps into everything they do (e.g. Tim Burton, Coen Brothers, Shel Silverstein, Sofia Coppola). And Stephin Merritt, musical mastermind who has been the force behind not one band, but four. Yes, four.

The most famous of those has been the Magnetic Fields, with whom he recorded a number of albums, merging electronic ABBA-esque pop with lo-fi instrumentation and variety of vocalists. The apex of their output was 1999's "69 Love Songs," an ambitious 3-disc set of songs about love, in all its bright and dark and fatal and bittersweet and beautiful incarnations. Despite the adventurous and varied spirit of the 69 different delightful tracks, his persistent vision and voice come through as his and his alone; it is unmistakably his grandly-realised magnum opus. Tres magnifique.

Amidst a fantastic album full of great titles (Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits, Nothing Matters When We're Dancing, The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be), there are two songs that stand out:

Meaningless (fatalistic murmuring indie pop over ukelele)
{like when two fireflies flouresce
Just like everything I guess
it was utterly meaningless }
The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side (bouncy, cheerful indie pop with lovelorn lyrics)
{Andy would bicycle across town in the rain
to bring you candy and
John would buy the gown for you to wear to the
prom with
Tom the astronomer who'd name a star for you}
The more I think about it…they are probably, neck-and-neck, pound-for-pound the two best songs I have ever heard in my entire life, in all the world. Greatest Songs Ever. Definitely. Unmistakably Stephin. Auteur of beautiful, happy-sad love music. In my dreams, he would score a Truffaut film.

the Magnetic Fields
Meaningless / The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
69 Love Songs

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