The Microphones – “The Glow”
appears on It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water
This eleven-minute centrepiece from It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water was, if memory serves, the first Microphones song I ever heard. Despite some of the wonderful pieces released before and since – in particular that same album’s opening track “The Pull” – it has remained my absolute favourite of Phil Elverum’s extensive musical output. “The Glow” boasts impressive technical and stylistic depth and breadth, covering 60s vocal-pop, lo-fi, classical folk, ambient, sound-collage and 90s indie-rock, all built upon a strong foundation of subtle psychedelia and characterised by Elverum’s fearless experimentation. There are so many lovely, sentimental components to this song: the brilliant use of microphone-smothering to create the image of an underwater band (guitars sounding ever globbier, percussion increasingly muted); Mirah’s delightful guest appearance as the voice of the disembodied, titular glow, her twinkling voice providing essential warmth and security; and the song’s closing two-parter, which sees a rumbling, syncopated rhythm section eventually give way to a finale of minimalistic accordion. “The Glow” is an exceptional piece of music on two levels – Elverum’s production wizardry and the multiple movements and surprises make the song fascinating to dissect and study, but even more so “The Glow” is undoubtably the beating heart at the centre of It Was Hot, arguably at the centre of The Microphones entire discography. Its emotional heft cannot be denied.