The first album up on New Old Sounds is from a band I hadn’t even heard of at the start of the year, but it’s a record that I’ve already fallen in love with. The Glow Pt.2 is the seventh studio album by The Microphones, and at 20 tracks long, the album is a commitment. My first listen on a crowded tube during my commute to work was stifled by yawns and ambient commuter noise, so it was only during subsequent listens that I could even start to discover just how intricate this is. In my opinion it is best visited in one sitting, with headphones in, otherwise the changes in pace, volume and instrumentation are too easily lost.
The opening track ‘I Want Wind To Blow’ sets expectations of a lo-fi acoustic album, yet this is immediately contradicted by the opening notes of the second track. The titular ‘The Glow Pt. 2’ comes steaming out the gates with electric guitars and thrashing drums, which in turn subside to some of the most personal lyrics on the album “I faced death/I went in with my arms swinging/But I heard my own breath/I had to face that I’m still living.” From this point onwards it becomes clear that Phil Elverum is laying everything on the line, and that the extremes of sound throughout serve to echo the ups and downs of everyday life. Just a glance at the track titles shows it’s all about the ‘I/My’ vs the ‘You’ll/Yours’, the constant struggle of trying to survive by yourself, let alone trying to coexist with somebody else.
When I first heard ‘The Moon’ it sounded as if two tracks, an acoustic guitar ballad, and synth and drum track had accidentally been played over one another. It made no sense at all yet somehow as the song progresses, they somehow start to align, like two out of time metronomes somehow finding a common synchronicity.
My favourite song may well be the first ‘Instrumental’ track. Something about it is so inherently beautiful to me, from the delicately plucked guitar strings through to the shimmering piano solo that follows. After just 1 minute and 39 seconds, it fades away into the next track.
Every time I hear the intro to ‘Map’ I have to double check that I’m not listening to ‘Come To Me’ by 65daysofstatic, but as the track builds and shifts, there’s no mistaking it for anything else. By the time the thundering repetitive piano keys kick in at the end, you can barely savour the moment before the delicate ‘You’ll Be In The Air’ starts to play.
‘I Felt My Size’ pertains to existentialism and recognising how small you are, before soon leading into the brilliant ‘I Felt Your Shape’, the most upbeat track about realising your relationship is doomed that I have ever heard. ‘Samurai Sword’, the heaviest track on the album, follows and serves as the break up track, where our narrator is quite literally faced to fight and kill the beast he once loved. The album closes on the words ‘They know my red blood is warm still’, so after it all, despite the anguish and the suffering, he hasn’t given up just yet. He is still alive, and as such, there is still hope.
I feel as if it's an album of pairs, tracks are coupled together so despite the mix of sounds, while a song may feel dissonant first time around, it's a sound that's invoked further later on in the record and brings a real sense of balance to the proceedings.
Reading about the album elsewhere, it's a telling story that there are many more reviews from the years that followed, and also the 2008 reissue, than the original release. Admittedly, there were far fewer people actively reviewing music online in 2001, but it highlights that it's an album that can easily pass you by; it's called lo-fi for a reason. Years later, it's easy to praise this for what it is, and pick out how it has influenced other bands, but at the time, this type of sound hadn't truly developed, so as with any audience, until you know what you're listening out for, you're still only wanting to hear what you already know, and what you've been conditioned to enjoy.
It's a beautiful record, and as a statement on its lasting appeal and endurance, it's an album that I feel I've heard before. Yet The Glow Pt. 2 was released in 2001, back when I was still kicking it in primary school, and clearly anything I've heard clearly lends from this sound. It's a record that I can pick up and appreciate today in 2015, and it doesn't matter that I wasn't there at the start. We can't all be James Murphy in 'Losing My Edge'. Only James Murphy can be James Murphy, and not everybody can be there from the start, because if they were, then it would no longer be the start, it would already be the middle, and then nobody would have anything to brag about. All I know is that I have an entire body of work from Phil Elverum to pick at and discover, and if he was at this stage at the turn of the century, I can't wait to find out where he took his music next.