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The Tragic Treasury: Songs From a Series of Unfortunate Events

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This musical companion to bestselling novelist Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is comically creepy fun for children of all ages. The Gothic Archies is a musical project of Stephin Merritt, the songwriter best known for his band the Magnetic Fields. The album, entitled The Tragic Treasury, features music originally recorded for the audiobooks of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Tragic Treasury contains 13 songs corresponding to the 13 books in the series, with two additional bonus tracks also inspired by the series. All music is performed by the Gothic Archies, with Lemony Snicket accompanying on accordion. The Tragic Treasury is being released October 10, 2006, in conjunction with the final Lemony Snicket book, The End.

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Children's discs, like cartoons, sometimes work on a couple of different levels, but those levels are usually predictable--the pop-culture reference that flies over a slack-jawed fourth grader's head while garnering a chuckle from her parent, for example, or the double-entendre that's decidedly singular in the eyes of a 6-year-old child. The Tragic Treasury, the companion disc to Daniel Handler's creepily addictive Lemony Snicket series of books, is in a whole different league: 11-year-olds and the adults who hover over them, waiting for their own chance to devour each title, will love its verisimilitude--songs like "Scream and Run Away" and "Smile! No One Cares How You Feel" couldn't have been concocted for anything else--and indie-rock types, be they 19 or 62, will love its drearily exceptional hipness. Whether you know your grim grottos from your vile villages and hostile hospitals (all Snicket titles) couldn't matter less: if artful gloom-leaning pop grabs you, this disc gives up the goods, and of a quality you won't find anywhere else besides a handful of less-inspired Gothic Archies releases. As most non-Snicketeers inclined to pick up The Tragic Treasury know, Stephen Merritt--he of the equally excellent Magnetic Fields--is responsible; a few accordion contributions from Handler himself aside, he alone is the merry Goth man. He also writes a mean lyric, and luckily for Snicket loyalists, they're included in liner notes here. --Tammy La Gorce
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 10, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000HDRAMG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,019 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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...and one of Stephin Merritt's most memorable, and by far the funniest. On this album he is doing what he does best: being a glum old curmudgeon-popster with tongue wedged squarely in cheek. No knowledge of the Lemony Snicket books is needed. There are a number of direct references in several of the songs, but the lyrics stand on their own quite well, particular in numbers such as Freakshow, Shipwrecked, How Do You Slow This Thing Down?, and A Million Mushrooms. Expect an expertly crafted mixture of glum yet surprisingly catchy arrangements coupled with more of Merritt's hilariously morose lyrics. Highly recommended!
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The second I heard the song, "Crows," I knew I had to own this album. I know nothing of Lemony Snicket books, but I've a been a Magnetic Fields fan for awhile. So, after very awkwardly browsing the childrens' section at the bookstore, I was able to find a copy of this really great album. I was very happily surprised to find that this CD is more in line with Merritt's great early nineties albums (like Holiday, Wasps' Nests, and The New Despair) rather than i or (shudder) Showtunes. This is a great mix of synths and traditional instruments (if you consider an electric sitar "traditional"). The lyrics are very depressing/weird/funny/moving depending on the song, though some are all four.

Even though I did my research on this album before I got it, I'm stilll astonished as to how good it really is. I wasn't excited for the next Magnetic Fields album next Spring, but now I am. The only thing I can equate this to is when another great indie artist, Mark Mulcahy, put out a disc of Polaris songs for The Adventure of Pete and Pete (they're completely different save for sheer quality). I can't say for sure if Lemony Snicket fans will really dig these songs as much as I do, since I'm already a fan. However, I haven't read any of the Snicket books, but now I really want to.
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Format: Audio CD
I had the great "misfortune" to see some of these tunes performed live by Daniel Handler (on accordian) and Stephin Merrit (Lemony Snicket was supposed to play percussion but he was detained... long story... you get it if you know about the books). It was the greatest thing I have ever seen! If you have the chance to catch Lemony Snicket on tour, do it! And get the CD, you will be very, very firmly depressed and miserable. It's the perfect accompaniment to this series.
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I may not be a kid, but I know when something is fun! If you're a parent, then you are probably familiar with "A Series of Unfortunate Events." I haven't read a single one of the books from this series, but my son read all thirteen (and counting?), so there is obviously something about their humor and style that is addictive. The same can be said of "The Tragic Treasury," a collection of clever songs inspired by the book series. Grown-ups may know Stephin Merritt as the brains behind Magnetic Fields, his ambitious recording nom-de-plume that a few years back offered a fabulous 3-disk set called "69 Love Songs." The literacy and deadpan emotional investment of that collection earned "69 Love Songs" a place on many critics `best of' lists. Since then, his chameleonic nature has him peeking from behind corners under various guises, including the 6ths and Future Bible Heroes. The Gothic Archies is simply his latest, and funniest, disguise, as a composer with a penchant for black humor.

So we have a conundrum. Kids know the books but not the musician. A few discerning adults know the artist but not the book series. So, let's address that situation immediately; Kids don't need to know the musician to recognize the humorous tone of these songs, and adults don't need to read the books to be hooked, either. These songs may work great as an accompaniment to the young adult books, but the songs are genuinely entertaining in their own right. As I said, I never read a single volume, but there are points when Merritt makes me laugh out loud. Heck, just reading the band-name makes me laugh. Here's just a sampling of his lyrical style, taken from a rhythmic carnival ride entitled "The World Is a Very Scary Place";

"The world is a very scary place, I hear.
Read more ›
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For the Stephin Meritt completist, which I am, a collection of more tiny gems from the master. It's as much a Lemony Snickets project as a Gothic Archie's release, but several songs, led by "How Do You Slow This Thing Down", wouldn't be out of place on a Magnetic Fields album and the self-celebratory "We Are The Gothic Archies", which ends the CD, is the kind of fun Meritt fans are willing to allow the songwriter.
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We bought this because we loved the clip from the audio book of "The Reptile Room." We did enjoy that song, but also felt it was one of the better songs on the album. For fans of the Unfortunate Events series, it's probably still worth it.
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Stephen Merit and Daniel Handler do an amazing job executing songs to illustrate the series of books. Though the gothic undertone and gloomy heartshattered feel may not be for everybody, a true fan of the series would revel in the tone that matches the novels to a tee. I recommend it to any fan of ASOUE, The Baudelaire Orphans, or Lemony Snicket in general, and note that "Smile, No One Care's How You Feel," is definitely my favorite song off this set.
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