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Music CD Recommendations

Spotlight on: Mount Eerie by the Microphones
Alternate: Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull

Cover image/photo of Mt Eerie by the Microphones

The Microphones, Mount Eerie

Anyone who's a regular reader of Craig's Music Club knows that I am a huge fan of the Microphones. Ever since I heard their seminal album The Glow Pt. 2, I've been following this band (which is composed mainly of Phil Elvrum, the mind behind it all, and a few of his musically-inclined friends) and their musical ventures into the previously unknown.

I immediately went in pursuit of more of that music. I have since bought the previous album It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, and the singles collection Song Islands (and my reviews of those can be found through the links), and have been consistently impressed with the ideas and musicianship that come from one man's mind and his relationship with the universe. (All the Microphones albums can be seen to have a nature-based thread running throughout them, except the singles collection, which is stunning in itself as a portrait of the tremendous growth Elvrum has experienced since his original flowering.)

After the tremendous success of The Glow Pt. 2 (its review page is one of the most popular on this site), where was there to go but up...and out. Mount Eerie is the Microphones' musical idea of the universe, from creation to the present--including a stunning visit with Death itself. It is a true concept album.

The liner notes themselves tell you everything that can be known without actually hearing the music. There are five tracks in all (from the K records Web site):

  1. 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.
  2. Solar System: In which, in a valley on the way up, the day is ending while you reminisce about a girl gracefully juggling (you as) a planet.
  3. Universe: In which, coming out of the canyon in the dusk, you realize your ball of fire friend has set and doubt creeps in. A big beautiful dark backdrop above asks you intimate questions and sings.
  4. Mt. Eerie: In which, on a precipice, you watch your killer roll up and kill you. Vultures eat your body and fly off, leaving the peak empty and windy again.
  5. In which, invisible, you realize there's a mountain above the one you just walked up. Also, the Universe painting you'd gazed at before turns out to be a lot bigger than you thought, and 3-D.
Now, that's nothing if not ambitious. And that's the kind of stuff coming out of the independent music scene in Washington state, and that's the kind of stuff you have to be ready for if you're going to listen to the Microphones.

Don't get me wrong, it's melodic and sounds great through headphones. There's all the normal surface that we expect from our music, but there's more. That's all I'm saying.

Of course, I wouldn't recommend this as a first Microphones purchase. There's enough material here that it may be overwhelming to a new listener. Get into the Microphones state of mind first. Listen to It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, then go to The Glow Pt. 2, and if you "get" those, you'll be ready for a trip to Mount Eerie.

Alternate Recommendation: Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick

I love a good concept album, and this is the grandfather of them all, as far as I am concerned. Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick was the first such album I ever heard, and thus I will always place it on a revered pedestal long after it has been surpassed in both form and content by albums like Mount Eerie.

On the surface, it concerns a poem written by Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock that was first awarded, then recanted. Ian Anderson (lead singer and main songwriter) said that he wanted the lyrics/poem to sound like something an intelligent ten-year-old would have written.

From there we go into several recurring motifs that last for about forty-five minutes. I am actually finding it difficult to describe, suffice to say that it is a bit like a novel in music form, like all great concept albums.

Also included on this pressing (are they still called that?) are two extra tracks--a live recording of the first thirteen minutes of Thick as a Brick (which is rather anticlimactic, if you ask me, and totally unnecessary), and an interview with three of the members of the band (Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, and Barriemore Barlow). As well as a replica of the original album art--a fictional newspaper, The St. Cleve Chronicle.

Click on the links above to purchase any of the items mentioned, or use the search box below to find what you like.

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(Or just email me and let me know what you think.)