Characters in Stephin Merritt’s compact and intricate songs thumb their nose at affection and the curiosities of relationships. His wry wit cuts through the dense arrangements, which rival some of those classic pop composers like Rogers and Hart or Bacharach. Australian songwriter Hanlon opens. The Magnetic Fields and Darren Hanlon play Durham’s Carolina Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 4. Tickets for the 8:30 p.m. show are $21.