The Microphones: The Glow, pt. 2

The Microphones
The Glow, pt. 2

That act of disrupting, of throwing off expectations, is key to the Microphones’ music. It’s even more central to the songs’ musical constructions than to their lyrical content. The first two songs form a perfect example. There’s elements of surprise within each song and, even more dramatically, in the transition between the two. The album opener, “I Want Wind to Blow”, begins with acoustic guitar and Elvrum’s inward-turned vocals; as the song proceeds and instruments come in here and there, the music gains of subtle sort of lushness, a quality which persists through much of the album even when there’s less than a handful of instruments on the track, it feels elaborately designed. As the song ends, it gives way to the title track, which opens with extreme, “out” rock, with all musicians playing with metallic abandon. Then that song transforms too, moving into acoustic guitar and vocals again, and then more into a foreboding mix of electric guitars and background piano. The entire album is like this: pretty guitar instrumentals lead into bizarre, fuzzy pop/rock, and so on. Lengthy periods of silence penetrate the album, in a case or two interrupting a song for minutes. Two tracks that together are aptly called “(something)” offer quiet but truly strange instrumental music, while a song called “I Felt My Size” takes a break from pretty balladry to drive through some sort of unearthly bar, with warped piano playing before a cloud of noise.

The Microphones’ approach to music is free and idiosyncratic. They seem constrained by few boundaries, a fact that allows them to travel through various unique musical lands. In a way this is difficult music, though perhaps complicated is a more appropriate word than difficult, because the latter suggests that listening to it is a chore. There’s nothing painful about The Glow, pt. 2, but there is definitely something mysterious about it. The glow of the title might refer to what goes on inside a person’s soul, or maybe it’s just sunlight, but it could also be the unique spell that the Microphones cast, the magic light that emanates from their music.