I’m in a dream. It’s taking place in the living room of my apartment. I’m sitting on my couch playing my guitar; a cup of coffee is sitting on the fittingly titled coffee table in front of me. My appearance is relatively unchanged, save for a mysterious scar on my left hand. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m sure it has to do with money. Possibly gambling debts. Regardless, things appear as they would in my conscious state. I take a revitalizing sip from my mug with a picture of a Pug on it (Thank you, Grandma). I begin to strum on my guitar, my left hand moving effortlessly up and down the fretboard, my right hand plucking and strumming the strings as if I’ve been practicing the instrument for a lifetime. I close my eyes, draw in a deep breath, and then exhale. I’ve attained Zen. I’m on the astral plane. Is this a dream within a dream? Is Inception really possible? Leonardo, you genius.
“You didn’t write that.”
I know that voice. My astral plane evaporates beneath me. My vessel comes to a shrieking standstill. Though I’m still in a catatonic state, I feel like I’m wide awake. I look to my left, where my other couch is. It should be vacant, but instead, two bodies occupy it. It’s two of my exes. They sit, cross legged, ostensibly staring through me. Red hair drapes across the shoulder of one. The voice I heard comes from the other. She waits, pursing the most beautiful lips I’ve ever kissed.
“What do you mean I didn’t write that?” I don’t bother to ask why they are here.
“Phil Elvrum wrote that song. You’re playing ‘I Felt Your Shape’ by The Microphones. I’m not surprised. How many times have you sat alone in the dark listening to that song, wallowing in self-pity thinking about us? It’s everything you’ve wanted to say to us, you just weren’t able to write it first.” The red-head says this with a wry smile across her face, as if to spurn any chance of me attempting to take credit for penning the lyrics while at the same time condemning my writing skills. Touché. (I’m also taken aback seeing as how I don’t think any of my former paramours know who Elvrum is. But I suppose this is my dream, and thus they are merely manifestations of my own psyche).
They’re right, though. In their own snarky, bitchy way, they’re right. I spent countless nights lost in thought while searching for meaning in The Glow Pt. 2 by The Microphones. Along with Neutral Milk Hotel, The Smiths and Okkervil River, The Microphones were a band that opened my eyes to a whole new landscape of music. Traditional song structures and overproduced, radio-friendly schlock didn’t even warrant an afterthought after pouring over the 67 minutes of what could only be called The Microphone’s “definitive” album. I would even go so far as to call it fate that the first Microphone’s song I ever heard was “I Felt Your Shape” after my first real breakup. But even then, I only heard the song on a wholly superficial level. It was after my second (and albeit vastly more serious) breakup did I start to absorb every little lyric that Elvrum was dispatching.
Like a dream in a dream, every song on The Glow Pt. 2 is made up of multiple layers, creating the sort of depth that few albums have had before it or could imagine to replicate in the years after. Through the entirety of the album, you are never allowed repose. The subsiding and fluidity of the melodies in the music are, in the very least, masterful. Elvrum seems to employ the idea that less is more. Not just in the indie, “lo-fi” sense that less production creates a richer, sincere sound (which, by all means, it certainly does on this album). More so that the less you know about what’s coming, the more you will be emotionally moved by what you hear.
You push play, double click your MP3 or maybe drop the needle down on your vinyl of The Glow Pt. 2. “I Want Wind to Blow”, the albums opening track, draws you in with its beautiful and delicate acoustic melody. Elvrum lead you into the harmonious, accordion backed outro by chanting “There’s no hope for me / I’ve been set free / There’s no breeze, There’s no ship on my sea.” As you slip further into harmony, you are assaulted by an overpowering swell of sound. Rolling percussion and distorted guitar slam into you like an ocean wave in a hurricane as the title track of the album enters your ear canals. Throughout this hour-plus long opus, this pattern repeats. At no point during your listening session do you know what’s about to come. The beauty is that this forces you become an active listener. You are constantly in awe of the sounds that are being created, and persistently awaiting what comes next.
The Glow Pt. 2 contains a myriad of instruments and vocal guiles, but at no point do they ever become overwhelming. The double-tracked vocals on songs like “I’ll Not Contain You” sound even more ghostly when listening to the song with headphones. The piano on “My Roots are Strong and Deep” make you feel as if you’re in the middle of a grand theater. The audience sits in complete silence as Elvrum sings “But compared to you I’m small / the things you need you just surround” in fuzzy vocals. While there are twenty separate tracks (not counting the bonus tracks for the re-issue), the album is best listened to as one massive piece of music. Each song moves remarkably and flawlessly into the other, even when they thematically and tonally different. It’s one of the many things that make this album so stunning and nearly immaculate.
I take a minute to look down at my hands typing away at my laptop. No scar. I look to my right, where my past was sitting not too long ago. Just a sweatshirt and a harmonica. I must be what people consider to be “awake”. Coincidentally, as I come to the end of my writing, my play through of The Glow Pt. 2. Is funneling “I Felt Your Shape” through my speakers. I take a two minutes to listen to the song, then lean forward to conclude my article.
“That’s a fitting end, wouldn’t you say?”
I know that voice. There’s a scar on my hand now. I turn around.