The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
Aug 7, 2020 (updated Aug 23, 2020)
Bluntly honest & thoroughly focused, Phil Elverum’s latest addition to his catalog rivals some of his best work; even A Crow Looked at Me.
Since this premiered about 12 hours early on his YT page, I’ve managed to get through 7 listens of Microphones in 2020. On first listen, I had no complaints except for the opening 8 minutes or so of that infectious acoustic riff. Looking back, I realize that the riff is a main theme of sorts. I know its a bit of a lazy comparison; but think about Fishmans’ Long Season. That opening keyboard sequence is the backbone of that record and eventually returns later on just like in M2020.
The re-use of vocal melodies, drum patterns & riffs only add to the already superb sense of cohesion across the board. Phil set out to make it seem like a super super long track with little interludes scattered and he definitely succeeded.
Now on to the best quality of this (and most Microphones & Mount Eerie releases) : the writing. It’s hard not to view this like an indie coming-of-age film. Phil quite literally talks about all of these events and occurrences that somehow maybe planted musical ideas in his head. Its actually really inspiring when you hear a musical genius say that he struggled with making music initially and it took a while to master everything. The whole train-of-thought writing reminded me a bit of the Mount Eerie track “Soria Moria” where he croons briefly about traveling to the hospital over and over to bring his wife food.
The instrumental aspect of this record is extremely tightly knit. The mixture of soft & delicate acoustic strumming transitioning into Duster-esque distorted bass makes for an epic journey. Keyboard sequences can be heard scattered around the back half.
I love the homage Phil pays to what put him on the map. Dropping references & talking about taking his shirt off in the yard, feeling his size, a mansion, the moon & the word glow is mentioned several times. This really makes his whole career and life feel like its coming full circle.
There are a few passages where he talks about his deceased wife Genevieve, the inspiration for A Crow Looked at Me, which admittedly brought me to tears. I am glad he didn’t fixate on the topic; it seems like he’s a lot more at terms with it these days; just from a music listener’s perspective.
To wrap this all up, Microphones in 2020 is a bold yet vulnerable statement. I expect this to become another staple you will find on indie folk lists & charts that Phil has already given so much to. It features some of the best writing and melodies I’ve heard in the last few years. This is an album to enjoy. This is an album to dissect. This is an album to reminisce to.
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Aug 9, 2020
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