Phil Elverum quietly dropped a new short film on YouTube last week titled There’s No End, so I figured it would be prudent to take a look back at Microphones’ fifth and final studio album, Microphones in 2020.
It’s no secret that Elverum’s Mount Eerie project is among my favorites in the past several years. In fact, Lost Wisdom was among my most played albums of 2021. I’m sure, had I tallied all plays in previous years, Mount Eerie would be a familiar recurring name.
I’ll start with a peek at the new film There’s No End before unboxing Microphones in 2020 on vinyl and wrapping it up with some notes and my thoughts on the LP.
Elverum’s “There’s No End” Documentary
To reiterate, last week Elverum posted a short film on YouTube titled There’s No End. Chiming in at just under 20 minutes, the film is a peek into Phil Elverum’s life as a musician, creative, and single parent.
There is some looking back; he touches briefly on the experience of losing his wife Geneviève Castrée to cancer in 2016. But it’s not the central theme in the film. Instead, the focus is on life, growth, and looking forward.
Let’s take a look:
Phil Elverum has always presented as mild mannered and soft spoken with a mindfulness to the words he speaks, and that of course translates well on a film like There’s No End.
The film was directed by Mattias Evangelista with Riley Donavan as Director of Photography, and I think they did a wonderful job not just capturing Elverum but showing the beauty of the Puget Sound. Having lived on its outskirts for over a decade, the sense of nostalgia for me was intense and even a bit emotional.
States Elverum in the video’s description:
“I always try to just be myself. Sometimes I make songs and albums of spilled guts deep reaching ideas and send them out to all the strangers in the world, but mostly I’ve tried to keep the real daily life private. I’ve wanted to share the meat and hide the skin. Now I find myself surprised to be revealing a beautifully filmed portrait version of this home life; the simple routines with my young daughter, the meandering ideas that burble out unformed. Our lived moments aren’t the art project, but a picture of our little world with its everyday light and shadows, the place where we actually live. Coffee and oatmeal on a school morning, talking again about death and jokes and emptiness.”Phil Elverum from the There’s No End (2022) description.
As he notes, it’s a bit of a surprise to peek behind the curtain of Elverum’s creative side. In addition to being soft spoken and mindful, he has always been quite private.
Unboxing Microphones in 2020
In regards to Microphones in 2020, Phil Elverum described it as a “lyric video…a slideshow, a powerpoint presentation, a flip book, and a documentary.” It is the fifth and supposedly final studio album under the Microphones name, which he hasn’t produced music under in 17 years.
This translates across in the packaging for Microphones in 2020. Let’s take a look:
There has always been a creative cohesiveness to the visual side of Mount Eerie, and Elverum pulls those elements into both Microphones in 2020 and There’s No End.
A Look at Microphones Final Studio Album
As with many upon its announcement and release, I was quite excited to pick up a copy of Microphones in 2020, and it didn’t disappoint. Not in the least!
It’s not the first time he’s appeared as Microphones though, having performed under the moniker in 2019 and also back in 2010 with the closing of Anacortes’ Department of Safety music venue.
Released August 7, 2020, Microphones in 2020 is a true concept album containing a single track spanning three sides of a double LP. It’s an introspective, nostalgic look back at life for Elverum.
Predominantly stripped back, bare, and acoustic, like with There’s No End, Elverum pulls back the curtain and shares vulnerably about his life. We are 3/4 of the way through the Side 1 before Elverum adds additional layers of guitar and percussion.
Here is a snippet of lyrics from the album/song.
“I remember where I was when I was 20 or 17 or 23.Lyrics from “Microphones in 2020” by Phil Elverum
The disinterested sun would still rise every morning same as now.
Dawn was loud.
I took my breakfast to the couch on the porch of the punk house.
Coffee and low tide smell and my life stretching out.
Spending hours each morning reading poems and staring off and then snapping back to urgency,
I did my dishes then I would sprint to the studio again.
Spend all day and night digging in, distorted bass, spliced tape,
singing lines like there’s no end and I won’t look for you in my room about my friends.
I checked firstname.lastname@example.org like once a week.
You can listen to the song above courtesy Elverum’s Bandcamp page, but I recommend checking out the YouTube video as well.