The Microphones

The Glow, Pt. 2

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While It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water expanded the Microphones' lo-fi, psych pop horizons, their 66-minute epic The Glow, Pt. 2 marks an even bigger departure. Named after It Was Hot's sprawling centerpiece, the album explores and explodes styles and moods over the course of 20 songs that lead into one another breathlessly, as if even an hour simply isn't enough time for Phil Elvrum and company to pack in all of their ideas. The album revels in its kaleidoscopic sounds, spanning pastoral folky ballads, playful symphonic pop, and gusts of white noise. Flourishes like the steel drums on the title track and the double-tracked vocals and xylophones on "The Map" make The Glow, Pt. 2 something of a rarity: a lo-fi album designed for headphones. The distorted drums, murky organs, and crisp acoustic guitars that punctuate the album have an oversaturated, almost tangible quality that, while dense, never overwhelms Elvrum's fragile voice or poetic lyrics. The beautiful acoustic ballad "I Felt Your Shape" cautions against holding on too tight to someone, literally or figuratively; "I Am Bored" sets the boredom of a dying relationship to noisy fuzz pop. But it's The Glow, Pt. 2's deep, nearly spiritual yearning that makes it the Microphones' most compelling album to date. Vague, strangely hymnal lyrics like "Through rotting skin I'll leave my coffin/Through callous work I will grow soft," from "I'll Not Contain You," resonate emotionally, albeit cryptically. At times, The Glow, Pt. 2 resembles My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything ("I Want to Be Cold") and His Name Is Alive's Home Is in Your Head (especially on the instrumentals); like those bands' best work, the album is dense with musical quick-changes, production tricks, and evocative imagery. Expansive yet accessible, indulgent yet unpretentious, The Glow, Pt. 2 redefines the Microphones' fascinatingly contradictory music.

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