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New Music: Mount Eerie

By Jason Herring, April 27 2017 —

Phil Elverum’s wife, Geneviève, passed away in July 2016 from pancreatic cancer. “She died at home with me and her parents holding her, hopefully having reached some last minute peace. It’s all very sad and surreal,” Elverum wrote online on the day of her death. A Crow Looked at Me is Elverum’s attempt to document his grief.

Elverum released the album under the name Mount Eerie, but he’s also known as the prolific experimental folk artist behind The Microphones. On previous albums, Elverum focused on themes of nature and solitude with his music exhibiting the same chaotic randomness that makes the world both so frightening and beautiful.ENT_MountEerie

A Crow Looked at Me is a different type of album. Each track is stripped bare — Elverum’s lyrics are streams of consciousness that detail moments of grief in dealing with his loss. His voice is conversational and frank as he sings about his wife — things she enjoyed, where her memory persists and what being in her old room feels like. His songs are even more structureless and direct than usual. Suffice to say, it’s not an easy listen.

But, it’s an important one. Elverum’s release differs from a lot of art made about death and loss because it addresses less-acknowledged parts of grieving. He sings about giving Geneviève’s clothes away, talking about death with his young daughter and the guilt of continuing to live himself.

From its first track, “Real Death,” A Crow Looked at Me devastates. The centrepiece of the song is an anecdote about receiving a package — a gift for their daughter — in the mail a week after his wife’s passing. Elverum is catatonic in his delivery up until he reaches the climax of the story with his voice breaking: “collapsed there on the front porch I wailed.” It captures the profound sadness of loss in a way that few pieces of art manage to.

But the album’s most powerful moments come when Elverum sings about finding meaning in life. In “Crow,” the final track, he talks about hiking with his daughter asleep in his backpack as a crow follows behind them. His daughter sleepily murmurs that she’s dreaming about a crow. Elverum leaves listeners with a question — does that mean anything? Maybe not, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

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