Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me – Album Review by Killian Laher
This album is like few others. Recorded in the aftermath of Phil Elverum’s wife’s death from pancreatic cancer, listening to it feels like an intrusion on his grief. The opening track Real Death begins with the plain, barely adorned voice of Elverum singing “death is real… it’s not for singing about” as he grasps the emptiness of the world he is left to bring his daughter up in alone. Few details are omitted, the painful events are spelt out in a bluntly honest way, as if the man had literally returned from the hospital and minutes later recorded this album over the following few months. The theme is explored further on Seaweed over sparse, almost apologetic backing. Intricate guitar picking forms the basis of the bleak Ravens, where he addresses his late wife in a soft, yet defiant whisper “I will move with our daughter, we will ride over water with your ghost”. Swims details how Elverum deals with the questions of his daughter about her mother, while My Chasm ponders if “the people around me want to keep hearing about my dead wife”.
Musically, the backing on these tracks is uncomplicated, akin to Johnny Cash’s final American Recordings series, without Cash’s bruised baritone. A little guitar, simple piano and the merest of percussion, at times the music is barely there. Towards the end of the album, the sound (briefly) fills out on Toothbrush/Trash and Soria Moria with piano and austere guitar. Many of the songs stop abruptly, in keeping with the feel of an album devoted to such a difficult subject matter.
But if anything, the music is somewhat secondary against Elverum’s lyrics, and it feels almost voyeuristic to quote them here. He sounds, not woebegone but more helpless, as if trying to process what has happened in his life. It never feels self-pitying, it’s more like making this album could be interpreted as a form of therapy for him. This will be way, way too much for most people. Not one for everyday listening and definitely best listened to alone. But an unnerving album that gets under your skin and won’t be forgotten easily.
1. Real Death
4. Forest Fire
6. My Chasm
7. When I Take Out The Garbage At Night
8. Emptiness pt. 2
10. Soria Moria