Mount Eerie's new album is a powerful statement of grief and love.P.W. Elverum & Sun, 2017
8.5 / 10
Calling Mount Eerie‘s latest album “deeply personal” feels like an understatement. “A Crow Looked At Me” details Phil Elverum’s thoughts following the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée. Just after giving birth to their daughter, Castrée learned the horrible news that she had an advanced pancreatic cancer. She died a year later in her and Elverum’s home. In the room where she died, Elverum recorded “A Crow Looked At Me” using her instruments. The sound is minimal; the production is non-existent. Mount Eerie’s music has always been somewhat minimal, but here, it says something more. An acknowledgement of our frailty. This is a powerful statement of grief and love.
Obviously “A Crow Looked At Me” is a difficult album to listen to at times. Elverum’s voice is at the forefront; no clouds of distortion hide in waiting. For this album, Mount Eerie’s typical distortion would be a welcome distraction. Instead, Elverum confronts us with the horrors of death head-on. Things that we take for granted and don’t even consider are given new meaning under the shadow of death. On “My Chasm”, Elverum sings about going to a grocery store and viewing an aisle as a “canyon of pity and confusion.” The commentary is also a statement on how we view others that have suffered a loss. We view those grieving as if they carry a curse that they could pass onto us. So we try to avoid them; avoid their suffering.
Elverum recalls the moment of when he spread his wife’s ashes, and how he doesn’t feel like they’re even her. He searches for meaning in his surroundings, as if she’s responsible for a field of geese or certain flowers blooming (on “Seaweed”). Then there are moments when a breeze may blow a door shut that makes him still look for her (on “Toothbrush/Trash”). Elverum even confronts his past music and how his wife’s passing gives him new perspective. He sings, “Conceptual emptiness was cool to talk about/ Back before I knew my way around these hospitals,” on “Emptiness pt. 2”. Does this event change Mount Eerie’s future music? It’s hard to believe that it won’t.
“A Crow Looked At Me” is a devastating album built with devastating lines. Some that particularly stand out include, “Now I can only see you on the fridge/ And in lifeless pictures,” on “Ravens”. On “Real Death” he comments on death by saying, “It’s dumb/ And I don’t want to learn anything from this.” What we learn from “A Crow Looked At Me” is that death is painful, yes. However, we also learn just how much Elverum loved his wife. It’s a beautiful tribute to her memory and a tremendous gift to his daughter, who unfortunately will never be able to make memories with her mother.