In September of 1999, I was in my middle school cafeteria, still recovering from the summer of Blink 182 and Limp Bizkit. Most people under the age of 25 were in similar positions at that point in their life, no matter what taste they subsequently acquired. Nonetheless, it would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 10th anniversary of one of the most fantastic albums of the 1990s: 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields, released on September 7, 1999.
Of course, the conception of 69 Love Songs was appropriate for a middle schooler’s maturity level. Stephin Merritt famously planned on recording 100 love song musical revue, but reduced it to a number that fans would easily remember. 69 Love Songs was a watershed moment in what we now consider “chamber pop” or “baroque pop,” which brought the high art world of classical music and musical theater to the lower art world of alternative rock. Everyone from the Polyphonic Spree to Sufjan Stevens to Joanna Newsom came in its wake, for better or for worse.
69 Love Songs was the subject of a particularly obsessive 33 1/3 book by L. D. Beghtol, a critic and collaborator on the album, and set an impossibly high standard for Merritt and the Magnetic Fields to follow this decade. Most recently, Merritt has worked on the score for the off-Broadway musical Coraline, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Merritt were to continue down that path. Nonetheless, 69 Love Songs still stands the test of time.