The 6ths: Wasps' Nests (1995)

Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields is not only one of the most gifted lyricists of our age, but for a period of time was one of the most prolific.  Back in the '90s, beyond just providing material for his main band (including the fantastic 3-CD set 69 Love Songs), he had a number of side projects.  My favorite was The 6ths, where he recruited a who's-who of indie rock luminaries to provide vocals for his songs.  1995's Wasps' Nests (both the artist name and album title apparently selected because they were all but impossible to pronounce), despite having a different singer for each track, is surprisingly cohesive, held together by Merritt's always-inventive lyrics and post-New Wave guitar and synth pop.  Indeed, 69 Love Songs aside, I play this more than anything else Merritt has released under the Magnetic Fields moniker.

My favorite song is opening salvo "San Diego Zoo," with San Francisco indie rocker/singer-songwriter Barbara Manning providing one of the loveliest vocals of her long and varied career over a sweet and wistful tune.  It's pure ear-candy, a song I've played countless times over the past 25 years and have yet to tire of it.

Other highlights?  Mary Timony (then of Helium, more recently of awesome indie supergroup Ex Hex) gives a sweet lilt to the immensely poppy and inviting "Dressed Up In Dreams"; Luna's Dean Wareham is predictably dry over the bittersweet break-up song "Falling Out Of Love With You"; Yo La Tengo drummer Georgia Hubley is unusually girlish on the catchy "Movies In My Head"; Sebadoh's Lou Barlow's hushed croon is well-matched to the somber shuffle "In The City In The Rain"; the Bats' Robert Scott makes "Heaven In A Black Leather Jacket" sound like a lost Kiwi Rock classic filtered through a toy Casio keyboard; another New Zealander, Chris Knox, sounds more like Merritt than himself on the perky "You Can't Break A Broken Heart"; and Anna Domino, with whom I'm not otherwise familiar, gets the album's most upbeat, playful tune, the terrifically fun dance-pop "Here In My Heart."  (The full list of contributors can be found here.)

Here's the video for "San Diego Zoo" (which I never knew existed until this very moment and now my life is about 50% better):
Here's "Falling Out Of Love With You":
...and an audio rip of "Here In My Heart":



  1. This is a test of the Jittery White Guy Music comment board. If this was an actual emergency...

  2. What a wonderful record. How could it not be with Stephin Merritt teaming up with some of the best independent artists of the day. At the time, I wasn't a fan of Merritt's gloomy singing (I've grown to appreciate it more) , so hearing his compositions set to the beat of a different vocalist (like on the early Magnetic Fields albums) didn't bother me none. Of course I love "San Diego Zoo," even if Barbara Mannings' directions to the popular tourist destination are a bit off. I think you'd end up in Mexico as the I-5 doesn't really take you directly to the San Diego Zoo. "All Dressed Up in Dreams" is another highlight -- depressing lyrics but not a depressing tune. Woulda been a hit if Yaz recorded it.


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