In the trailer to a new documentary about Stephin Merrit, the singer gets into a New York City cab, followed by a film crew, and has the following exchange:
Cabbie "So whata they makin' a documentary on you for?"
Merritt: "Cause I'm fascinating. I write wonderful music."
Cabbie: "What's your last name?"
Cabbie: "Nevah heard of you."
And that pretty much sums up 20 years of Stephin Merritt's remarkable work with Magnetic Fields, Gothic Archies, soundtracks and showtunes.
Stephin Merritt is a lot of things. He's grumpy but funny, acerbic and playful. He's not a household name, but he's a joy to listen to.
The new documentary about Merritt is called Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. I watched it over the weekend, and at times I felt like I was on the couch in his living room/recording studio, watching his records unfold. I could see the care and attention he brought to his music, but also the carefree and whimsical nature he has, particularly with his longtime friend, bandmate, and manager Claudia Gonson.