Let's do the short review first: buy the Glow, Pt. 2, and buy anything
else by Phil Elvrum's Microphones. I don't know if he's more gifted than
Thom Yorke, or the Modest Mouseketeer, but he's more interesting, and harder
to pin down. I approach anything he does with a great deal of anticipation,
because I know it'll be completely different from anything else I've heard all
The Glow, Pt. 2 is a logical but seldom-explored extension of
early-'70s prog-folk pioneers like Dom and the Strawbs. It
approaches this mostly unexplored area of rock's past with the same
degree of experimentation, and classical expertise, but Elvrum fuses his tracks
with more inward emotions, and the sort of fragile voice that wasn't commonly heard until
indie rock's heyday. He also updates the sound by casting aside the stoner
aspects of the music in favor of something purely organic and human.
The album starts out on a particular high with "I Want the Wind to Blow".
The song title also serves as the moving chorus that takes minor
observations ("There's hard feelings/There's pointless waste") into the rich
landscape of the acoustic guitars and fuzzed-out drums, giving the piece
an epic power. Given its urgent, momentous thrusts, the song ends in a
surprisingly languorous, contented strum. The explosion I expected did not
wait long to emerge, though; a storm of guitar introduces the title
track. Like the album as whole, "The Glow, pt. 2" is a meandering piece,
but it wanders in the best sense of the word, with mysterious banalities ("I
took my shirt off in the yard/No one saw that the skin on my shoulders was
golden/Now it's not") following a six-string barrage, leading the listener to a
world where every pause and every sound seems smothered in drama. It is
impossible not to pay attention; you get a vibe that Elvrum is in total
control of the situation, pinning every note down in place.
This is important, because after you've heard the first half of the CD, you can
barely recall the anthemic opener. Sometimes, as with "I'll not contain
you", I even get the sensation that Elvrum has written an entire album about taking a nap. Lyrics from "The Gleam, pt. 2" ("I saw your future in my sleep") even hint at this.
Still, I pay attention for all of the album's 66 minutes. For me, the most radio-friendly moments come in tracks 12 through 15. Accompanied by wind, lovely female vocals, anguished screaming and a
delicious organ, Elvrum shows wonderful, operatic pop sense in "Map", and
approaches Paul Simon prettiness in "I Am Bored". "I Felt My Size"
showcases Elvrum's debt to Syd Barrett -- it's psychedelic folk with sad vocals and
giddy, far-out music -- while "You'll be in the Air" splinters from charging
rock into a quiet plea to be buried in the snow. Through the power and
melodic splendor of these songs, it becomes easy to trust numbers like
"My Warm Blood" and "Samurai Sword" when they launch into minutes of
church bells and quiet static. Elvrum and his cohorts offer no indication that The Glow, pt 2 won't radically alter your life, so you keep listening and listening to it, somewhat hoping the strange, sprawling recording will change you.