The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
Aug 6, 2020
This is going to be a sort of continuation on my Mount Eerie review, while this will still work as a standalone writeup, a lot of the themes mentioned in that review, and album continue onto this record too.

“Beneath Mount Erie
I was already who I am”

Stood in the shadow of the great mountain, once again. Something he had thought he escaped years ago, but no, he could never escape it. Mount Eerie looms over him like a God casting their judgement, Phil’s tiny form in the deep, dark night of the mountain, standing, alone.
Mount Eerie is an impossible climb, it is a climb that we will all attempt but none will succeed, why? It’s because brute force does not work. There is no way to brute force your way out of depression, out of grief, out of death. The mountain serves to teach you that, you cannot cheat life, nor can you cheat death.

The Microphones in 2020 is to me, everything that Phil has built up to, this album was more than 17 years in the making. This album is Phil’s entire life, from start to finish, a personal recount of everything. This album feels like everything combined into one, Phil’s magnum opus, to say the least, and I don’t mean that as his best album, I mean it more in a sense that, it has all led up to this point, all his music beginning from the early tapes to his most recent Lost Wisdom Pt. 2. It has all led up to this moment, in which Phil lets it all out, lets it all go.
“Looking back to see if I could draw a map
That leads to now”
It’s a song that grows bigger and bigger as it goes, getting louder, stronger, more emotional and more intimate. It’s a song that feels like Phil, the musical embodiment of a man. Phil has always been good at depicting these sorts of both incredibly personal and relatable emotions. Most people would cite The Glow Pt. 2 as the perfect example of that, it’s an album that is incredibly personal to Phil, yet it resonates with so many other people, it feels like an album made directly for you and… that’s what this album feels like too. It’s a depiction of his entire life, while still made emotional and relatable, you still feel like you’re there, you’re with Phil on this journey through his life. While he looks back, he sends you into these photos that were taken throughout his life, photos of friends, concerts, places. Photos of Mount Erie, photos of Genevieve. Photos of his life. You’re here to see them, and to hear them through music. He makes multiple throwbacks in the lyrics as well to previous records, like The Glow Pt. 2 and Now Only, but these feel meaningful, and powerful, not just references thrown on for the sake of it, no, these mean something more.

“When I took my shirt off in the yard
I meant it, and it's still off”
One of the most important lines of the entire song, while brief it is enunciated. It arrives near the end of the track, after journeying through his entire life, we get to the now, we get to the hardships he had to persevere today. Phil never put his shirt back on, did he? Phil has worn his emotions on his sleeve always, from The Microphones inception to last year, he has always been honest, he has always told everything as it is. When he took his shirt off, showed his skin, showed his scars, he never hid them again, never covered them up. He remained vulnerable, he always has been.

It’s these flashes of Phil’s past that we not only hear but see that makes this album an incredibly unique experience, one I have never experienced before. This is his journey written on paper, sung in song, played through music. Feedback heavy passages, distorted drone passages, acoustic passages. It all means something, it all highlights the point in life he was at, at the time, whether it was hard or easier, fun or not. Phil told his story through not just words, but through images and sound, instrumentation to represent emotion and the imagery to show those memories and when they happened.

But one image kept popping up, a recurring theme not just through the lyrics but through the actual photos shown in the video. Mount Erie. The mountain where Mount Eerie got its name from, an important mountain to Phil. I’ve said before that Mount Eerie represents the lowest point in your life, and your inability to escape it at first, you will be struck down and hit the ground harder than you had before. You will only ascend the mountain once you have accepted your life, your soul, your worth as a person. To not be weighed down by what others think, how others think, and by others in general. Phil went to Mount Eerie for that first time in 2003 when he was at a low point, he had lost that glow in life and was in a deep hole. He then arrived on Mount Eerie’s shores, to climb to the top, but, he isn’t alone on his ascent. Across in the woods, across the lake stands Phil, another Phil, an older Phil, a more experienced Phil, a weaker Phil. A Phil who has gone through so much, so much more than he could ever imagine. Phil’s glow was gone, was killed.
“At the very end of 2002, I took the Microphones name and crumpled it up
And burned it in a cave on the frozen edge of northern Norway
I made a boundary between two eras of my life
A feeble gesture at making chaos seem organized
The roaring river carves on, laughing at my efforts
While the idea of something called "Mount Eerie" engulfed me
And time
Refuses to stop”
Did he ever leave Mount Eerie? My simple answer to that is no, not really. He was as fascinated as I am with the idea of Mount Eerie, what it was, what it could be and what it could do. He adopted the alias of Mount Eerie in 2003. He never did leave that mountain, he was always there, trying to climb, but falling down again, until now. The Microphones represented Phil at his freest, not being held down by anything, not people, not family, not relationships, he was happy doing what he loved, music. Mount Eerie represents Phil at his low point, not his lowest but at a point in time where he is sad, he is in a deep, dark hole. In the shadow of a mountain. It represents a loop, Phil trying to climb out but falling, again and again, but everyone reaches a breaking point. A Crow Looked at Me was that breaking point, when Phil lost his wife to cancer in 2016, something changed in his strategy. No longer would he try to force his way up an impossible mountain, instead he will wallow, lie in this hole and let the vultures consume him, and so he did, and it worked. 2020 Phil returns to The Microphones name, Phil has escaped Mount Eerie, he has ascended above it, above the highest point of mountain and into the sky, into The Universe. He looks down as he floats up and sees his life laid out in front of him, his past, present and future, some of it blurred and some of it clear. Some of it fuzzy and distorted, some of it dark as night, but, some of it is beautiful, some of it is shining, glowing in that darkness, glowing in the light of The Moon, the great Moon. The Moon was the one thing that would always be there for Phil, always waiting at the end of the day, waiting to see his face again.
“A finger
Pointed at the moon
For something shining and true”
Phil floats under the light of The Moon, it smiling down at him, glad to finally be with him. The Universe is where no one truly dies, you will always be one with the stars up here, while your mortal form may have been lost down below, above the plain, you’re immortal. In The Universe you are immortal in the hearts of those who love you and care about you, in those who you have left an impact on, in those you have made happy. Phil is part of The Universe, he has conquered Mount Eerie, it took him 17 years, but he did it. The Microphones in 2020 is not only Phil’s acceptance, but his conquering, his win against the impossible mount.

“Anyway, every song I've ever sung is about the same thing:
Standing on the ground looking around, basically
And if there have to be words, they could just be:
"Now only"
"There's no end"”
Aug 6, 2020
Aug 7, 2020
Aug 7, 2020
An absolutely fantastic review! I had some of the same thoughts as you so I feel like this might be a kind of unifying album.
Aug 9, 2020
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More Reviews by Supertartory
The Microphones - Mount Eerie
Aug 29, 2019
The Microphones - Song Islands
Jul 30, 2020
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