Magnetic Fields and Cat Power


Aging, though, tends to trump coyness, even in indie rock; these days, Bill Callahan records under his own name, and Darnielle raids his real-life childhood for inspiration. Yet Marshall and Merritt — who together have indulged every kind of make-believe there is — remain more evasive than ever. “Distortion,” in the great abstruse Magnetic Fields tradition, is an uncharacteristically loud record conceived as a sonic homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s landmark noise-pop record “Psychocandy.” On it, Merritt variously channels a necrophiliac, a drunk, a nun, an ax murderer and a prostitute. Making things even more confusing, half the record is sung by Shirley Simms, a collaborator on “69 Love Songs.” On Cat Power’s “Jukebox,” which includes covers of songs by Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Hank Williams, Marshall pours herself into people as wildly distinct as James Brown and Bob Dylan. Still, now that both are grown up and all — Merritt’s 42, Marshall 36 — one might well ask: Why the masquerade?

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