J4 on ’69 Love Songs’ by The Magnetic Fields

Music Feeds’ Love Letter To A Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share stories of how the music they love has influenced their lives. Here Melbourne indie pop duo J4 confess their love for The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs (1999)

J4 was born when housemates Bronte Maguire and Lewis Stephenson started writing songs together during one of Melbourne’s extended Covid lockdowns. The duo’s taste for pop hooks and skewwhiff comedy references is exemplified on J4’s self-titled debut EP, which includes the garage pop dance number “Fast Lane” and the rousing guitar-driven “Medicine.”

J4’s love letter to The Magnetic Fields’ “69 Love Songs”

Our group formed during a year and a half of confinement in Melbourne. One of the things we used to do on weekends was getting drunk and painting in the sun. We started a huge oasis type mural and worked on it every Saturday or Sunday for six hours a day for about a year.

During those times, we were listening to a lot of different music, whatever we could consume. We used these painting sessions as a catharsis, a family bonding session, a physical creative outlet, but also musical inspiration.

When the sun went down, we started writing songs. A very gourmet day around many wines, with some mushrooms and a cheese platter in the belly, we listened to an incredible record: 69 love songs by magnetic fields. Two hours and 45 minutes of love songs, all more or less brilliant, some more accomplished than others. But after some mushrooms and wine, every song was the best song we’ve ever heard.

We painted for hours that day, each song scrolling by and making us laugh, cry or shut up with beautiful melodies, sweet lyrics and wholesome harmonies. That night, after the sun went down and the paintings were put away, we wrote “Medicine” and “Bubbles”, both on our debut EP. Both songs have cascading harmonies, simple yet effective choruses, and an inexplicable innocence.

D4 – ‘Medicine’

We are hopeless romantics who don’t take ourselves too seriously and like to laugh together at each other’s expense. The lyrics of our songs bring that cheeky joy, while telling a love story. We liked the same about 69 love songsthat’s why it resonated so strongly with us.

Some of our favorite songs on the album are ‘I Don’t Want to Get Over You’, ‘The Book of Love’, ‘Sweet-Lovin’ Man’, ‘I Don’t Believe in the Sun’, ‘I Think I Need a New Heart’, ‘Punk Love’, ‘Time Enough for Rocking When We’re Old’ and very lo-fi ‘Washington, DC’.

We adopted the same attitude of “Fuck it, just let our songs come out with the attitude that was imposed on the demos.” In a lot of our songs, we used a lot of the original drunken vocals from those late nights in our living room. Sometimes you just can’t get the vibe of the original demos, and trying to look like a crime.

The J4 confinement fresco

Further reading

NEW AUS MUSIC PLAYLIST: Our favorite songs of the week

Love letter to a record: Girl and Girl on Black Country, “Ants From Up There” by New Road

The Belligerents Channel Classic Psych-Pop on ‘9 times out of 10’


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Grace D. Erickson