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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
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+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
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+ American Princes - Less And Less
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44.1 kHz Archive

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The Microphones
Live In Japan, February 19th, 21st, And 22nd, 2003

Phil Elvrum may've cast K king Calvin Johnson as "The Universe" on his last longplayer, but recent years have found The Microphones honcho himself establishing himself as the center of the K universe, an artistic catalyst casting his ideas onto K staples like Calvin and Mirah, whilst his own longplayers've found inspired contributions — and, in turn, inspired — traveling pals Little Wings and The Blow. And the pinnacle at the center of this newly-defined K world was The Microphones' Mount Eerie, a colossal concept-record cum indie-rock rock-opera whose ambitious ascent shot for heavenly artistic heights. Since scaling such, Elvrum's little on-the-side outing has found its popularity escalating greatly; which, as the way always goes, has been both blessing and curse, the upshot of this being a fracturing of The Microphones' identity, and, of recent, the sounds of Phil descending the hill, coming back down from his recent discographical peak. See, as quickly as word spread through the rank-and-file of file-sharing kids that Mount Eerie was a monumental longplayer, word spread that Phil Elvrum's Microphones live shows didn't match the majesty of the album, this gossipy conviction a kind of yin/yang of praise/slander that seems more indicative of human nature than it does of any sort of pop-cultural truism. Sure, those who expecting a Taiko drum troupe or an on-stage record replication may've been dismayed when they found, most often, some solitary soldier sitting on the stage fumbling at an acoustic guitar, but to say this disqualifies this element of Elvrum's performative artistry seems a little too harsh. And, then, well, there's a chance that fans' gig-attending dismay came from the fact that the live show found a whole bunch of new songs; and, lo, all these songs turn up on this new live album. Although calling it a live album gives the wrong idea: the title essentially belies its contents. Sure, the disc was really recorded over three nights in Japan, but it's naught but new material, forsaking the regular live-album staples — old hits played for rapturous crowd — to stand in for what's basically the latest Microphones longplayer. It's also likely the last Microphones longplayer, as, a year after Mount Eerie, Elvrum — now known as Elverum for reasons yet to be known — has declared his Microphones bandname permanently ditched in favor of the moniker Mount Eerie (no less). Which means Live in Japan is cleaning-house closure to his Microphones era, its collection of unreleased cuts culled as a gesture of finality for those same fans that may've blanched at the live shows themselves. As album, it's a set of twangy free-form Microphones tunes, which actually sound more tuneful, here, than they regularly do on his own on-disc missives. And, running contrary to those who decried his solo live performances, the best things herein are where he goes it alone; the set beginning with a pair of glorious solo songwriterish numbers — "Great Ghosts" and "The Blow Pt.2" (an ode to said friend that commences, magically: "Oh, Khaela, you have burned me/ You have taken me and turned me/ Into a cloud of smoke lost on a humming wind") — that usher in Elverum as songsmith shrouded in profound angst. These are followed, later on, by a couple off-the-cuff moments where he sets his own absurdist lyrics to the tunes of "My Favorite Things" and "Silent Night." Yet, the set has this distinct feeling of growing grander by the passing song; with numerous numbers finding Johnson and Little Wings hero Kyle Field helping out on various instruments and intermittent backing vocals. Curiously, their contributions end up equating to this being the most "straight" Microphones album, songs like "Universe Conclusion" and "After N. Young" displaying striking similarities between Phil and Will (Oldham that is), Elverum's croaky vocals showing he's learned many a lesson at the altar of the master of moniker-ditching-lo-fi-troubadour artifice.

by Anthony Carew

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