You’ve just left a book store that was stacked ceiling high with books.  It smelled of rotting paper, wood, and a slight bit like a wet dog.  The book that you hold in your hand is missing the first couple pages.  Yet you are able to look at the book with admiration, you can’t wait to get into the story that it holds, and you are even more excited by the way it looks.  Why is this?  Why is this half-ruined book worthy of your time?  Here are my three best reasons:

  1. The book has a personality.  When you open the cover of the book the previous owner’s person escapes.  The book that you are about to read has been through some of the most intimate times of another’s life.  It’s been in the subway on the way to work, it’s been in the park on an autumn day, it’s been in the bathroom; the book essentially holds two stories, one that comes from the text, and one from the original reader’s life.
  2. Books are meant to look yellow and tattered.  Stiff, white books are so dead feeling.  I’d much rather hold a book that smells of an old library and that has its price lightly penciled onto the inside cover.  Why pry open a brand new novel from Barnes and Noble when one can experience a REAL book.
  3. They are more fun to find.  Used book stores are a world of their own, the tall towers of books would make the average reader run in fear and the categorization would most likely make a librarian weep, but every good book found is a victory.  There is nothing more satisfying than finding that one special book sitting in the dusty corner of the store, you know, that one that hasn’t been reprinted since the 1960’s.

So there you have it, now go support your local used book store (or library, they’re good too).  If you live in or around Philly then check out Brickbat or The Book Trader

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Mount Eerie: Cold and Misty

October 13, 2008

Music has a special ability to bring back old memories. Sometimes songs get tied like a knot to parts of our minds, and when they are played again they release the sights, smells, and most importantly, feelings of a certain place in time. This is what I assume to be a perfectly natural occurrence as music seems to have a special ability to connect to us. The alignment of rhythms and sounds are able to evoke some sort of sensible feelings out of us.

Then there is the music of Mount Eerie, a project of Phil Elverum (formally of The Microphones). Mount Eerie takes the listener away to a place where he or she has never been. Instead of evoking memories, it creates ones that have never even existed. While listening to Mount Eerie I can often feel fog surround me, and I can see forests of ancient trees covered in moss. Mount Eerie’s music is not just music, it’s an entire experience. Instead of defining a story, it defines a setting, and allows the listener to explore.

This setting usually is characterized by the Pacific Northwest, the place where Phil Elverum lives and where Mount Eerie thrives. Like a sponge, Phil Elverum sucks in the environment that he lives in, the wet moss, the foggy morning, and spits it out in sonic form. I can’t help but think back to a time when I was on the beach on a cold night. I dipped my feet in the water and felt it rush up my legs and I was immediately struck by fond memory, but it was a memory that never happened. I instantly felt the emotions, images, and sounds that emanate from Mount Eerie’s music; I was transported to the Pacific Northwest as seen through Phil Elverum’s eyes. This was an incredibly powerful experience that I’ve never felt from any other music; it was an extremely beautiful moment.

Recently, Mount Eerie has expanded into other media forms. So far, a photo book and a movie (see: “Fog Movies Live”) have been released, and a journal (see: “Dawn”) of drawings and notes is set to arrive in November. These things serve as a perfect complement to Mount Eerie’s music, another indication that Phil Elverum really knows how to relate music to his environment. His photo book, which contains a record featuring “Mount Eerie Pts. 6 & 7” (a continuation of The Microphones’ final album “Mount Eerie”), matches the music perfectly with its blurred pictures of foggy landscapes, dimly lit homes, and ghost like double exposures. These things add to the aura of Mount Eerie, they create a definite idea of what is seen, felt, and heard.

On the album “No Flashlight” Phil Elverum mumbles, “What does Mount Eerie mean?” This seems to be a question that is best answered by the entire catalog of Mount Eerie / The Microphones material. This is because the answer to that question can only be expressed by feelings which words are not powerful enough to describe.