fifty-one: “I felt your shape” by the microphones.

estes park. colorado. november 2011.

The Glow Pt. 2 came out on my birthday in 2001. It was my first introduction to The Microphones and a love for Phil Elvrum that would go on and on, even as he drifted between his original moniker, then Mount Eerie, and then back again. My friend, Jack, had wrapped the CD in newspaper print and a piece of twine that he had found laying around the radio station. When I opened it and saw the wonky elephant that graced the cover, I wasn’t impressed. “Trust me,” he said, “you’ll love it.” And he was right.

As a sucker for lo-fi, The Glow Pt. 2 encompasses everything that is great and bad about the genre – it’s noisy, raw and tattered; and in some spots, ripped up beyond recognizable melody, that your shoulders instinctively crawl up toward your ears and you cringe the cringe that comes with unbearable pleasure. As an English major, I analyzed Elvrum’s lyrics every time I was given a chance to take a part a piece of song or poetry – his use of language and metaphors puts him in a category all his own – line after line is truly astonishing.

I’ll admit that these days I don’t listen to The Glow Pt. 2 as much as I should, or as I did so obsessively those weeks following my birthday. And when I got his next album, Song Islands, the following year I didn’t listen to it even a tenth as much as I listened to The Glow Pt. 2 – it was also a great album, but just didn’t resonate the way I needed it to in my heart.

As I write this, with Elvrum’s voice streaming through my headphones, my shoulders pulled toward my ears, goosebumps along the nape of my neck, I’m reminded of why I don’t listen to it as often as I once did: it’s too good. It’s almost torturously good – aching, cringing, and screaming into the dark sky kind of good. And when something like that exists, it’s best to keep it on the shelf, admire it from afar and pull it out when you need to remember that music really is meant to take you someplace else.

However, since the great Elvrum is releasing two Mount Eerie albums this year, I felt it necessary to put The Glow Pt. 2 on repeat once again. “I Felt Your Shape,” although not as experimental and more folky of the songs, has lyrics that would turn any ice cold heart into water again.

I thought I felt your shape but I was wrong
Really all I felt was falsely strong
I held on tight and closed my eyes
It was dumb I had no sense of your size

It was dumb to hold so tight
But last night
On the birthday in the kitchen
My grip was loose my eyes were open

I felt your shape and heard you breathing
I felt the rise and fall of your chest
I felt your fall
Your winter snows
Your gusty blow
Your lava flow
I felt it all
Your starry night
Your lack of light
With limp arms I can feel most of you

I hung around your neck independently
And my loss was overwhelmed
By this new depth I don’t think I ever felt

But I don’t know
The nights are cold
And I remember warmth
I could have sworn I wasn’t alone

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