Category Archives: 2000s

The Microphones: The Glow pt. 2

The Microphones: The Glow, Pt. 2 (2001)

Phil: I don’t remember the first time I heard Phil Elvrum’s (now Elverum, see his interview with The Believer) masterpiece of separation and personal discovery, but I can say I have listened to this album several times in several different contexts and it stands apart as one of the finer releases of the Pacific Northwest’s Indie scene.

A friend of mine once told me she thought that every Microphones album sounded like the band practiced for four days straight without sleeping and then recorded. Production on Microphones records is almost always arrestingly simple and childlike, like no one cares if vocal tracks clip and distort or if the hard-panned guitars aren’t really in time. And Phil Elverum’s a smart guy. He could make everything line up just so if he really wanted to, but this approach to the recording process is either calculated naivete or an attention to something else altogether.

What’s important to Phil Elverum? Like any good artist, he seems to be concerned with expression; if this album was tight, in tune and clean, it would be a completely different statement. It would be an album about intentionally working through intense personal muck instead of an album about wandering around in a fog (or glow, if you will) of uncertainty, occasionally tripping over something transcendent but mostly thinking about uncertainty and its aftereffects.

“I Felt My Size” (far from my favorite track on the album) stands, in my mind, as the prime example of most of the elements that make this album exactly what it is. It starts with Elverum’s voice and guitar right up front in the mix with some noise in the very back, sounding very…Northwesty…until the drums come in and they’re just so gd compressed that you can hardly tell what they’re supposed to sound like. And then we get some weird auxiliary noises until the group choir comes in and tells us that Phil is not a planet at all, that he has found his place in the universe and it is certainly not much of one. So you have the sound of someone understanding that the universe does not really much care for them (a theme explored in the following LP Mount Eerie) and it sounds unsettling.

I think this album is unsettling because it is an unsettled album. It’s for grey days and feeling like you don’t have a clue and need to feel like somebody has gone through this all before. And so many have, but few have communicated it as well as Phil Elverum on this here album.

Glenn: I completely agree with you, Phil. This album always sounds just out of earshot — and that is unsettling. There are those albums I know by heart, from first note to last fade. London Calling, Astral Weeks, Kind of Blue, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Abbey Road. But, for me, this album is more like The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Exile on Main Street, Amnesiac, and Camofleur: each listen is like the first listen, and something new comes to the front. The Glow Pt. 2 is perhaps the album I love best that I know least. There is something distant, almost unknowable about the album — fog, as Phil puts it.

Yet the mystical quality of the album seems steeped in the real world. For example, see “The Moon,” my favorite Microphones song. A glance at the lyrics shows it to be a straightforward narrative. But the childlike production is what makes the song poignant. Only so often do lyrics lines emerge clearly through the haze of guitars: “We walked around and stayed up late….And the wind and the mountaintop….My chest was full….And in its light I saw my two feet on the ground.” The fragments of story are more meaningful than the story itself, because you, the listener, must do the work to make sense of the song.

Phil: I’d be willing to cut “The Mansion”; I think it’s a really good lyrical centerpiece to the fog/glow of the album, but the title track is pretty stinking awesome.

Glenn: I’ve always thought that the song “The Glow, Pt. 2” would sound good arranged for brass quintet. Dig a French horn on that gorgeous vocal melody.

In fact, that’s maybe what we’re getting at in this conversation. This record glows with fog, but underneath it all lie solid melodies and good lyrics. Which is more than you can say about any other Microphones or Mount Eerie release (sorry, Phil; sorry, Phil).

Key tracks:

“I Want Wind To Blow”
“The Glow, Pt. ii”
“The Moon”
I Felt My Size



Filed under 2000s, Experimental, Psychedelic, Rock

Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary

Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

Jordy: It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been four years since this album dropped.  I remember hearing it that fall of 2005 and thinking “This is exactly how I want rock to sound: fast, hooky, dark, and triumphant.”  Isaac Brock earned his short keep as a Sub Pop A&R man and producer with this record and, in that light, I can only hope that his last four years’ energies haven’t been wasted on mere Modest Mouse albums.  He found this band right when they needed it.  They sound hungry.  (Not that they made any money necessarily.)

The opener “You are a Runner and I am My Father’s Son” is a real ass-kicker and introduces the listener to Spencer Krug’s two greatest offerings: really cool yelping vocals (which aren’t nearly as Tiny Tim-esque as some haters might assert) and pounding keyboard grooves.  I was sticking my waxy earbuds in everyone’s face that October saying, “You have to hear this shit!”

I’ll leave some of the other highlights to Glenn but not before I claim the two greatest back-to-back tracks of the indie era.  “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”  features Krug’s very best lyrical turns powered by high swirling organ and en invigorating la-la-la chorus and you’d think you couldn’t get higher.  Until the next track.  “I’ll Believe in Anything” is nothing less than a glorious stomping hymn in earnest praise of, well, Anything.  Incredible.  This pair still gives me chills after hundreds of listens.  The songs are truly durable in their form and sentiment.

Glenn: Durable is right, Jordy. I must admit that at first this album struck me as just another indie rock record. “Bound Arcade Pornographers, Broken Social Pitchfork….meh.” That stuff is good but it gets…old. It was about six months later that I found myself humming “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” and “Grounds For Divorce” to myself, trying to keep my balance on the snow-slick streets of Chicago in winter. These are solid, catchy songs.

For me, this is a record that sounds like warmth in the midst of cold. I’m not sure why, exactly — perhaps because I first loved it in winter — but it might have to do with the sound of struggle on the record. While the band is a well-oiled groove machine (what indie rock is this furious and yet this danceable?), the songs seem to grapple their way upward from real pain toward sunlight and joy. And not in an emo way, either. When he says, “I need sunshine,” you believe him. Triumph, indeed.

One more thing: remember all those “Wolf” bands circa 2005? That was funny.

4 Essential Tracks:

“You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son”
“Grounds for Divorce”
“Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”
I’ll Believe In Anything

Buy it


Filed under 2000s, Rock

Modest Mouse: The Moon & Antarctica

Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica (2000)


I had such high hopes for The Lonesome Crowded West. But it turned out to be a droney, overlong, emoish Pixies ripoff. I dug a few tracks, but soon filed it away and returned to Fugazi.

A few years later my friends were talking about “this great new band, Modest Mouse,” and the record they just picked up at Best Buy. I shrugged and picked up The Moon & Antarctica, but again, it was a little…well…iffy.

The production was crap. Many of the songs seemed just as slight as those on The Lonesome Crowded West. The singer still lisped. The double-tracked vocals canceled each other out. The guitars lacked tactility, the bass was muddled, the cymbals were too damn loud, the rest of the drums thuddy or inaudible, and when the band tried to rock it sounded like a bad car radio with the mids cranked and the high end rolled off. Plus the cover art (the old cover art, two disembodied hands shaking over some sort of lunar landscape) sucked. What, exactly, was going on here? Continue reading


Filed under 2000s, Rock

“I’m all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of town”


Warren Zevon doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a great songwriter.  He was well-respected among other musicians, and his songs are often covered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and others.  As a teenager, Zevon briefly studied modern classical music with Igor Stravinsky, and in the 1970s, he was the touring keyboradist with the Everly Brothers as well as with Don and Phil Everly on their respective individual tours.  He was also an occasional stand-in for Paul Shaffer on both late-night iterations of David Letterman’s show.

Carmelita” from Preludes:  Rare and Unreleased Recordings (2007)

“Carmelita” is a junkie’s lament and one of Zevon’s most famous songs, after “Werewolves of London.”  The song first came to my attention recently after hearing a cover by GG Allin, of all people.  The version I’ve posted is an acoustic demo, but after comparing it to the original release I felt this version was more affecting.

Searching For A Heart” from Learning to Flinch (1993)

I very much like songs that are able to distill the complexities of love into such simple words, and yet still convey emotional depth, and “Searching for a Heart” succeeds admirably in that regard.

I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” from Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)

This is just a great song that showcases some of Zevon’s darkly comic style.

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1970s, 1990s, 2000s, Acoustic, Live, Rock, Singer-Songwriter

Who is this man

Its how you float that matters

It's how you float that matters

Simon Joyner – “The Drunken Boat” from Out Into the Snow (2009)

Pardon my absence once again, but you don’t want excuses, you want results.

What we have here is an anomaly, an anachronism, a man out of time. A Billy Pilgrim, if you will. The warm sound of tape, the warm lap steel,the electric guitar tone, the mumbling juxtaposition of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen and Dylan, the strings seemingly lifted right from the end of Astral Weeks. It’s all here. Everything about this song (especially the production!) screams “I was written and recorded in 1976!”

But no! This album came out last month! And it makes me wonder how albums (or songs) use production values to present themselves as something else entirely.  How much of the irresistible charm of this nine-and-a-half minute epic is due to its built-in nostalgia? Would Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire be as irresistible as this song if it sounded like it was recorded in the 1970s?

These are the questions I have for you, gentle reader. Please listen and consider and respond.

Also please buy this record because you want to

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Folk, Singer-Songwriter

Beatles Blitz

As most of the world knows, the entire Beatles catalog will be re-released next week Wednesday to coincide with the release of the Beatles Rock Band vidya game. The game, I must admit, looks pretty fucking sweet especially for those of us who like to sing harmonies:

Check out the full song list.

I pre-ordered a few of the albums already to fill in gaps in my collection or to replace damaged discs.  It’s gonna take all my self-control to not go out and buy a PS3 just to play this game.

What do you think?  Is all of this a crass attempt by Apple Records, the remaining Beatles, and the estates of the dead ones to make millions and millions of dollars?  Or, is it simply a way to turn a whole new generation on to the greatest, most influential pop music of all time?

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1960s, 2000s, Pop, Rock

Poll: Original versus Cover

New Order – “Love Vigilantes” from Low-Life [1985]

Iron & Wine – “Love Vigilantes” from Around the Well [2009]

Submitted for your approval:  two versions of the same song.  The original, by New Order, and the cover, by Iron & Wine.  Both have their merits, but this is a fight to the finish (is there any other kind of fight?).  Which version of the song is better?  This is completely subjective.  I like both versions of the song for different reasons.  I appreciate New Order for coming up with the song and writing such great lyrics, but I feel the Iron & Wine version is more evocative and truly does justice to the lyrics.  But now, instead of bloviating, I am going to make my voice heard in the poll, and so should you.  It takes two clicks.

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1980s, 2000s, Acoustic, Folk