steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

The Microphones

"Mount Eerie" CD/LP

K Records

Box 7154
Olympia, Wash 98507

Feb 3 - 9 2003

When listening to Mount Eerie, you can't really think about anything else.  The music is so powerfully there - coming at you - that your mind can't concentrate on any diversions.  It's as if a train is rocketing towards you at a hundred miles an hour - there's no time to let your mind slip, or your fate will be sealed.  Likewise, when the sounds of a distant train horn are heard accompanying the beating drums of "the Sun," all you can really do is drop your jaw in awe.

But that's how all good epics should be, isn't it?

Five tracks long, Mount Eerie is The Microphones' follow-up to last year's The Glow, Pt. 2.  Named after Mt. Erie, the mountain on Fidalgo Island, where Phil Elvrum grew up, the five-part release is a concept album of sorts.  Each of its five tracks tells a part of the story.  It starts off with "The Sun" (the liner notes explain: "The Sun: In which the story begins, where you are born and run away from death up the mountain in fear and are watched by a ball of fire.")  The track commences with a rumbling, shuddering drum beat that follows the subject (a.k.a. you) running up the mountain.  You can imagine yourself desperately jetting through the tree branches and bushes that block your path - recklessly trying to escape death. Onslaughts of horns back the drums, creating a powerful, chaotic atmosphere.  Then, all of the sudden, the drums drop out, only to be suddenly replaced by Elvrum's confronting vocals and a beautifully hesitant, almost jumpy guitar part.  Eventually, the guitar and vocals are washed out with an overpowering layer of feedback noise, only to be brought back into context with the endearing "Solar System," a short little number that takes a break from the album's lengthy opener - a reference to Elvrum's previous albums, if you will.

To give away the rest of Elvrum's story would seem like something of a sacrilege - I'd rather keep it as a secret until you go and check it out yourself.  Though peppered with immense amounts of non-accessibility, including bouts of noisy feedback and slow, non-melodic drum parts, Mount Eerie is still perfectly engaging.  With the perfect balance between "pop" and "non-pop," this is the best (and least self-absorbed) concept album to come out in ages.  You have no excuse; go out and buy Mount Eerie right now.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 5 songs, distributed by the label, released 2003]