The Microphones - Microphones in 2020 2LPP.W. Elverum & Sun
For the first Microphones album in 17 years, Phil Elverum chose a title that seems humble on the surface. The name The Microphones in 2020 promises just a moment in time, but the music delivers much more than that: It's an all-encompassing experience that honors Elverum's past and present selves. As he puts it at one point on its single, 44-minute-long song, "I was already who I am." This oral history of the project of his life captures not only his own recollections but the slippery nature of memories and of time. His words and music loop on themselves, inch forward, and retrace their steps as the gulf between then and now widens and narrows. Often, the album sounds like Mount Eerie remembering a stashed-away Microphones song, and A Crow Looked at Me and Now Only feel like antecedents to the wide, stream-of-consciousness swath that The Microphones in 2020 cuts. Though it was a year in the making, it flows effortlessly, ensuring that Elverum's audience is right there moving through time with him.
The album begins with the Microphones' music in its simplest and purest state: guitars and the air around them. The unmistakable strumming of the first guitar Elverum ever owned takes listeners back instantly, creating a startling déjà vu that, like the album's beautiful cover artwork, speaks to art's singular power to look forward and back at the same time. The shifting chords take on an eternal cast, and when Elverum's voice finally appears eight minutes in, it's as momentous as anything on The Glow, Pt. 2. As he reflects, the instrumentation -- the luminous harmonies, reverberating pianos, fluttering keyboards, and black metal-inspired electric guitar that defined the Microphones' style back in the day -- comes and goes like memories, some fleeting and some lingering. True to the project's legacy, The Microphones in 2020 is as rich in lyrical detail as it is in epic sounds. Elverum is still an expert at deceptively simple, thoughtful observations, and phrases like "each moment is a new collapsing building" reflect his craft while seeming like they just came to him. His blurring of the boundaries between biography, philosophy, and poetry, as well as the distinction between profound and everyday memories (his morning routine during the Microphones era, an encounter with Bonnie "Prince" Billy while touring Italy), add to The Microphones in 2020's poignant, sometimes overwhelming feeling of completeness. Time has only made Elverum's music more transcendent, and anyone who loves the Microphones or Mount Eerie will find the album's fresh yet timeless perspective on it a fascinating and moving listen. -All Music Guide