Song Islands


Oh my god! Perfect! So beautiful! Like The Velvet Underground playing “Candy Says” with a youth summer camp band on toy instruments. No, that was a shit appraisal. More pure than that! Like angels singing tunes written for them by Joe Meek and Neil Young. Closer! Spiritualized as performed by Will Oldham and a Salvation Army band? Dammit! More like the best thing I’ve heard all month, delicate hymns and singalongs perfectly melded to rude drums and fuzz bass, that shift and shimmer like quicksilver. There. And there’s 21 of these gems! Viva Microphones!

Opener “Bass Drum Dream” abruptly shifts directions no less than three times — from spacey squelchy dream, to solo acoustic strumming, and then it all combines in a beatific crawling groove. “Where It’s Hotter Pts. 1, 2, 3” is like a lovely collage, combining separate song fragments into a reflection on longing to be nearer — some sections so painfully bare that they dare you to breathe, others collapsing into lo-fi noise goo.

The vocals are angelic, ringing and clear — Phil Elvrum should be complimented. And the thing that I just dig to death about “Song Islands” is that it’s lo-fi chamber pop that’s determinedly beat-centred, but not in a hip hop dance way, more like grand booming fragments of Mo Tucker cavernous god sound. Anchoring the listener. Witness the almost trip hop, more dinosaur in tar stomp, drums that begin and end “Feedback.” It’s more ecstatic catharsis than macho skin-pounding.

Barnburer “Heavy Eyes” almost nicks the drum beat from “Lust For Life” and amplifies it to one million while lush harmonies struggle to break through. “Moon Moon” is important, because that’s when the choruses of guest vocals that truly elevate the Microphones’ music to the epic level it deserves begin, echoing through the careful strumming. “I Lost My Mind” with it’s intricate and emotive guitar picking and little boy lost vocals is soooo Nick Drake. The uncluttered sound is almost breathtaking when it hums through the speakers. Same goes for “The Moon” which is fucking cool as well because it sounds like Elvrum loses his place a couple times in the beginning of the song, but when those vocals start — it’s all a wave of gorgeous melancholy. Or how about it’s bombastic instrumental twin brother, “Version”? That’s ambition!

“I Can’t Believe You Actually Died” is pretty much the campfire singalong of God! Various guitars and strings gently lull out a melody as a great chorus of joyful voices echo the words of the singer. “Deeply Buried” reminds me of early Red House Painters in terms of negative space, but the sampling and technology brings to mind Radiohead circa Kid A or even Alastair Galbraith’s twisted ambience.

“Phil Elvrum’s Will” has some thrillingly naked vocals and stark acoustic guitar backing that form an optimistic look at… death. And for the life of me, “There’s No Invincible Disguise That Lasts All Day” is the young child of the heartbreaking version of “Like A Hurricane” that Neil Young did solo, on pump organ, for MTV Unplugged a few years back.

This is something very special.

K Records: http://www.krecs.com • Secretly Canadian: http://www.secretlycanadian.com

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