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Hyacinths and Thistles

6ths Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio CD (25 Sep 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Circus
  • ASIN: B00004YYTD
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,228 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. As you turn to go - (w/Momus)
2. Give me back my dreams (w/Sally Timms)
3. He didn't (w/Bob Mould)
4. I've got new york (w/Melanie)
5. Just like a movie star - (w/Dominique A)
6. Kissing things - (w/Sarah Cracknell)
7. Night falls like a grand piano - (w/Clare Grogan)
8. The dead only quickly - (w/Neil Hannon)
9. The sailor in love with the sea - (w/Gary Numna)
10. Volcana! - (w/Marc Almon)
11. Waltzing me all the way home - (w/Odetta)
12. You You You You You - (w/Katharine Whalen)
13. Oahu - (w/Miss Lily Banquette)

Product Description


Though something of an elaborate joke, The 6ths should not be taken lightly--as with all of Stephin Merritt's projects, there is something deadly serious, even earnest, at the core. Merritt, the modern classicist behind the Magnetic Fields, would probably like to be cast as a latter-day Cole Porter or Gershwin, but his devotion to his own iconoclastic tastes will probably forever doom him from the popularity--and populism--of those who came before him. As long as Merritt continues to produce albums like 69 Love Songs and Hyancinths and Thistles, though, it is doubtful that any in his devoted cadre of fans will object.

Originally conceived (depending on whom you believe) as either an imaginary tribute to himself or an opportunity to experiment with other vocalists, Merritt gave The 6ths the hardest name in pop to pronounce--and then trumped it by calling the first album Wasp's Nests. No less a tongue twister, Hyacinths and Thistles is more accomplished than its predecessor; 13 songs of love that experiment in style and take advantage of the guest vocalists' gifts: Momus, accompanied solely by a zither, is delicate and ethereal; the earthy-voiced Sally Timms grounds "Give Me Back My Dreams"; St. Etienne's Sarah Cracknell weaves a sultry bedtime story of regret; and Bob Mould is reborn as an Elvis Costello-cum-Tom Waits interpreter. (The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon appears as an even more Waits-ish narrator on "The Dead Only Quickly".) Working with Odetta, Melanie and Marc Almond, Merritt gives into experimentation: Melanie is accompanied by classically-trained toy pianist Margaret Leng-Tan, Almond vamps his way through a tropical evening, and Odetta's accordion-accompanied "Waltzing Me All The Way Home" is a strangely triumphant cabaret. Only "You You You You You", featuring Squirrel Nut Zippers's Katharine Whalen, sounds like it could have appeared on Wasp's Nests, though there is never any doubt that this album could only have come from one man. --Randy Silver

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Stephin Merritt is an undoubted musical genius, but, as seems to be so often the case, appears unwilling to commit himself to one pure, identifiable style. Hyacinths And Thistles is an electro-inspired collection of beautifully understated digital pieces, each featuring a different guest vocalist. It's quite different from some of the music that Merritt has produced under his other aliases, but is equally valid. You know those albums that come along every so often, the ones that just sit in your CD player for months, set to permanent loop? The ones that are so rarely replaced in their jewel cases that you have no idea what the CD artwork looks like? The albums that are always played from start to finish without a break so that you begin to conceive of them as one big forty-five minute piece? This is one of those. It really is. I'm loath to write a review that consists of nothing more than the usual groupies' summary of "This is the best album ever, buy it now", but I'm finding it very hard to think of any major negative points about Hyacinths And Thistles. My biggest objection is the fact that I can't pronounce it. There are moments when the album seems to deliberately loose momentum, almost as if Merritt is ashamed to exploit the music in such an unabashedly beautiful way. This is at first annoying, but soon becomes incidental. It is the lyrical content that makes this album stand out, being as it is a combination of astonishingly clever word-play and unbelievably corny love poetry. If the album has a weak point, it is the tenth track, "Volcana" (with Marc Almond, believe it or not), which never really seems to achieve anything. Having said that, I'll probably love it by the end of next week. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful 11 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
The prolific, fecund of talent within Magnetic Fiels/6ths makes being a fan an expensive business. This is as good as '69 Love Songs' with (dare i say it) better vocals: some songs seem to suit Meritts vocal style, but Neil Hannon and (most surprisingly) Bob Mould provide a welcome distraction on the albums high points.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stand alone a great album - but no Wasps Nests 14 April 2007
Format:Audio CD
As a virtual newcomer to Stephen Merritt, I was suprised that something I heard on a commercial radio station with links to an online music sales site would actually throw up something this great, but I now own all of his and The 6ths' backlist. It's pop genius, flaws and all.

Hyacinths and Thistles, on it's own, is tinkly pop magic. The stand-out track is You You You You You with Katherine Whalen. It haunts my dreams! Neil Hanlon's contribution is superb, grim but uplifting, and Oahu with Miss Lily Banquette, whilst long towards the end, is another worm-like melody. However, it is NOT as great as Wasps Nests. And in the absence of that to review, I thought I'd tag a bit of that on here.

Aging Spinster is the most insidious song on the album. It's like a lamprey with it's hook and arrogant swagger. In the City In The Rain likewise, with the vocals just tickling the ear, and Falling Out of Love is my favourite with it's morbid excellence.

Two thumbs up people. Should appeal to fans of Balck Box Recorder and The Postal Service.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Perfect 1 Dec 2006
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
An amazing collection of songs. First listen was so so, second listen I decided there were two perhaps three outstanding tracks, third listen I was captivated. It now ranks as an album I do not want to play too much so as to not get sick of it if that makes sense.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking... 1 Jan 2002
By Rob Damm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I am puzzled by the criticism this album has been garnering. It is earnest, electro-cabaret music sung by some of the most distinctive voices in indie/alt.pop music.
Composition-wise, Merrit keeps it simple. The arrangements are bare-bones, vocals front-and-center, making it easy to focus on some of his most honest and "adult" lyrics to date.True, this record isn't much fun. But it is true and beautiful and immensely sad. Momus's singing on the first track is a highlight, as is the enchanting "sailor who's in love with the sea". These are grown-up songs about grown-up emotions.
It is not the bullet-proof jugernaut "69 Love songs" was, but it isn't meant to be. It's not the party record "Wasps nest" was... but it certainly isn't meant to be that... listen alone in the dark when your heartstrings break. You will hear the sound of a life and a love laid bare. Absolutely heartbreaking stuff.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it will creep into your heart 17 May 2004
By Elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I suspect that those people who wrote less-than-positive reviews of this album did so without giving it a chance. These are not "one night stand" songs that you jump and thrash around to for a brief moment before moving onto something else. These are songs that you will end up burning on mix CDs you make for your girlfriend, or playing when you miss someone, or having on in the background while you do dishes because they make even that pleasant. They are beautiful songs, sometimes haunting, and perfectly express some of those difficult-to-pin-down relationship moments as only Stephin Merritt can.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a world 12 Nov 2003
By Escarole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This being the first record involving Stephin Merritt I've listened to, can't respond to the comparisons with his other records and projects. I've had it in my car CD player for 2 months... it has been the soundtrack to my life, and its power continues to grow. So for me it's very much a whole now; the songs complement and resonate against each other in different ways each time I hear it, and the different timbres of voice populate a complex inner world of dreams. "As you turn to go" would/will probably be on my list of "songs that made me cry" if I would only hear it under certain circumstances... In time even the overblown and out of tune "Volcana" developed a fevered charm and replayed itself in my head. Lovely, timeless, keeper record. If Amazon hadn't deleted my listmania lists, this would've made one...
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judge For Yourself 17 Sep 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'm a bit baffled by the harsh words being thrown around concerning this disc. I wonder if it was written by teenagers. And although I think they have a lot to say about music - I love to watch them crying on MTV - this record is the most adult record Stephin has ever done. Those who scoff at Momus on "As You Turn To Go," might not have loved without reciprocation yet. Well, to be fair they probably have, and it was most likely earth-shattering, but only in later years will it really sink in. Wasp's Nests was a fun record and every song was catchy. But Hyacinths and Thistles will truely stand the test of time. To me, the only song worth caring about on the first 6ths record was, "When I'm Out of Town." The songs on this disc linger in the same realm that that song touched apon. Grab this record and appreciate it - it might help you out one day.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicate chamber-pop 13 Sep 2000
By Tincture Shunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I disagree completely with the Amazon reviewer regarding the cohesiveness of this album. Each track is minimal and subtly arranged, with strong vocal performances from the guest artists. As we've come to expect from Merritt, the recurring theme is love gone sour and moments of fleeting happiness in a blighted life. While Wasps' Nests was a compendium of carnivalesque synth pop featuring a roster of indie luminaries, Hyacinths and Thistles is a more cabaret-like affair, with more stylized vocals and less emphasis on sing-along choruses. In that sense, I would say Wasps' Nests is more of a tribute album than this one, which reflects the diversity of 69 Love Songs in a fraction of the time while retaining the discipline and structure of a proper song cycle. My one complaint is the 24 minutes of languid descending synths that closes the album...10 minutes would have been more than enough.
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