I have always found that an album that takes an extremely long time to grow on me is more rewarding than an album that I can get right into. I've been a Microphones fan for years, and every single one of their albums is hard to get into, but I must say that once they finally click with me the music is whirling around in my head for weeks. "The Glow pt.2” is the best Microphones album, and probably one of my favorites of all time. The funny thing is that I only listen to it about once every two or three months. It’s not that I’m saving the album up so I will never grow tired of it, but it's because I'm rarely in the right mood to listen to it. I’ll warn you guys right now, this album is not for everyone and it isn’t something you can't get into right away. "The Glow pt.2” demands patience and time, but if you give enough time and patience you will be rewarded.
"The Glow pt.2” is a hypnotic, dreary, reflective, and epic adventure. The music is gentle, and poignant, yet it refrains from being a bore. The music is lo-fi, experimental folk, lo-fi meaning that there are no electronic or computer effects brought into the music. When you first listen to this you will be confused and appalled because I referred to this music as 'experimental'. You see, at first the music will seem very boring and nothing will really stick out. After multiple listens you will start hearing new instruments and melodies will start coming together. I discover something new with every listen, and they aren’t small things about production, I’m discovering new instruments, rhythms, and melodies.
In order to discover new things about the album I hope you have a portable walkman, or an iPod with a solid set of headphones. I don’t usually go for this sort of thing, but to get the full affect of this album you will need headphones, and a cd player to plug them into. These two things will help you out if you want to hear everything happening in the music. If you don’t use headphones the music will sound flat and stale and nothing will stand out. It will also help if you turn the volume up just a little bit, to get the full effect.
"The Glow pt.2” is a depressing album. It’s filled with dreary acoustic guitar strums, over a dense, static background. Once you listen to the first track you will be sucked into the album. It goes against the whole 'give this album some time to grow on you' rule. Phil Elvrums gentle, and warm vocal delivery gives you the chills and the unsettling background static will add onto the whole eeriness of the song. If the opening track doesn’t suck you in than you are either deaf, or are not using proper headphone equipment. The same thing occurs throughout the whole album, soft double douling acoustics mixed in with a fuzzy background. Elvrum appears periodically singing in his detached and hypnotic vocals.
Another wonderful aspect of the album is how well the songs flow together. "The Glow pt.2” is a rough mixture of soft acoustic tracks and noisy, distorted noise tracks. One of these songs can come right after another and the transitions will still be smooth. Right after a heavy drum beat mixed in with distorted guitar fuzz the Microphones have the ability to slow things down and take you back into the dark, hypnotic adventure. This works extremely well because you will get to here an eerie side of Phil Elvrum and then a dark, mysterious side.
Being a lo-fi album the acoustic guitars dominate most the sound. Elvrum is usually strumming away at his acoustic creating catchy, detached, and mysterious melodies. Although this is the most obvious instrument used in the album Elvrum is frequently mixing things up. For example the title track is a loud, distorted mess containing a frantic drum beat accompanied by a fuzzy acoustic line. "Samurai Sword" is another twisted song which is straight up noise and fuzz. "The Glow pt.2” does not feature very many rock/pop moments but sometimes Elvrum lets out his emotion and just rocks out. That is about it as far as instruments go....so you think. While the all out noise tracks are carefully tucked among the soft acoustic songs there are other instruments that make "The Glow pt.2” so special. Bagpipes, Organs, pianos, and xylophones are also placed carefully amongst the 20 song album. Throughout the mysterious dreariness of the album there are some minor Irish/folk influences. The organs are used on a few tracks, most notably in the more fuzzy and detached songs. The rest of the instruments I just mentioned have a very big impact on the album, however they only appear in about four or five tracks slightly mixing things up.
I won't lie, Phil Elvrum looks like a big wussy. Just take a good look at the man, he is a scrawny, lanky, and puny white boy. Just taking a quick glance at Phil gives you a good idea at what he is like, but just wait until you hear his voice. His voice can be quite unsettling at first, but like everything else it will grow on you after various listens. Along with the acoustic guitar, Phil's hushed, nervous, and gentle voice gives the music a more melancholy tone. Throughout the album Phil sounds like he is paranoid, but he is holding in his panic. His voice is quivery and rushed at points, while this usually isn’t a good thing Phil makes it work and when listening to the album you get this eerie feeling inside. Throughout this album Phil usually sounds like a big, fat wuss, there is no doubt about it. His voice is fairly high-pitched and the quivering nervousness of his voice doesn’t help him out. However Phil pulls it off with his gentle and soft voice mixing in perfectly with the whole mysterious, and ambient feel of the album.
There is a reason why this is considered one of the greatest lo-fi albums of all time, and before I wrap things up I’d just like to tell you one last detail about the album. One time while I was listening to this I was at about the 14th track or so. I had the volume turned up high enough so I couldn’t hear anything around me, unless someone screamed in my ear. I was lying on my bed and my roommate came in the room and slammed the door looking like he was going to choke someone. I nearly pissed my pants, and have never been so scared in my life. When you listen to "The Glow pt.2” you get so sucked into the music that any little noise that you hear will startle you. I have never had an album put me in such a trance before, it's truly an incredible experience if you give it time and your patience.
Phil Elvrums "The Glow pt.2” is a must for any fans of lo-fi folk music, or anyone who enjoys listening to the acoustic guitar. The only thing that holds this back from being a classic is because the album is too unaccessible and it takes a ton of listens to get into. The sad thing is how unnoticed The Microphones are considering that their music is bone chilling, fuzzy, and gentle. If you have never heard of this album or this band than you should start out here. 20 tracks can be quite overwhelming, but things will work out over time. This album will not grow on you right away, it may take weeks for things to finally click but once they do you will be warped into a hypnotic, mysterious world that is hard to escape from.