“There’s no black or white, no change in the light
No night, no golden sun
The sound of cars, the smell of bars
The awful feeling of electric heat
Under fluorescent lights, there’s sacrifice
There’s hard feelings, there’s pointless waste”
– “I Want Wind to Blow”
There are few albums that capture the complexity of human emotion as expertly and accurately as The Glow Pt. 2. To me, this is one of the primary benchmarks that help differentiate between good music and bad music – the ability to express nuance and realism in emulating the feelings of human beings. It’s really not that “pop music is bad these days because all they talk about is drugs sex partying and money” but more so that it often lacks the authenticity of the human experience and forefronts a catchy beat or hook as the music, which, if your instrumental isn’t interesting or meaningful, is really a quite basic take on things – it’s just earworm fodder to please the brain. Of course, these songs are serving its purpose of a catchy dance tune, but I wouldn’t confuse them for being “great music.” That being said, a lot of popular music is fantastic and does capture human emotion well, is interesting sonically and lyrically, and are generally authentic and believable in the way they do so. The Glow Pt. 2 also manages to conceive these aspects.
The Glow Pt. 2 is upsetting. Its content is wistful and deeply unhappy. It’s not easy to grasp the genius of the album on first listen; it seems that the tracks are a tangle of confusing and harsh sounds, but also include some genuinely lively and pleasant melodies. It might seem a bit random, with the sudden introduction of the crushing, grating sound at the end of the first track, or the transition from gentle guitar strum into heavy noise rock. What’s going on? The lyrics lend a helping hand to picking apart these confusing sonic choices.
“I Want Wind to Blow” starts the album off with some very solemn imagery – it’s the lonely period of time after loss, the long, helpless phase of emptiness that comes after all the anger and turmoil has been kicked out of you, when “the thunderclouds have broken up, the rain dried up, the lightning let up.” The guitars strum back and forth, playing a very earnest and candid theme, while Phil Elverum’s raw vocal quality describes the despondency he finds himself in. Then, halfway through the track, our guitars switch over to a gorgeous folk tune that’s shaded with nostalgia, and it seems like our narrator is reminiscing over all the beautiful times he’s had in his previous relationship, over the glow of his happy past, and the lightheartedness of life. He communicates all this without speaking a word, letting the pleasant guitar tune carry us with his sweet memories… until a crashing, tumultuous cacophony explodes into the soundscape, and exposes us to the true turmoil and aching sadness of the narrator’s present. It’s here that we know our singer is broken, empty from mourning, and hopeless – he can only wish for the wind to blow, for anything to help knock him out of his endless nadir.
The tracks that follow delve deeper into this very depressing theme, and they’re all similarly contemplative and complex. It’s an album I would highly recommend listening to multiple times, and one utterly expressive of the depths of heartache and being alone.
Favorite Track: The Moon
Stand-Outs: I Want Wind to Blow, The Glow Pt. 2, The Moon, Map, You’ll Be in the Air, I Felt My Size, Samurai Sword