When Phil Elverum dropped his old moniker, The Microphones, in favor of Mount Eerie, I didn’t pay it much mind. In all honesty I wasn’t invested in his old stuff and didn’t have much interest in anything new. That probably seems blasphemous to some; I know he has a great following and is revered among songwriters for his talent. With A Crow Looked At Me, he’s definitely shifted my focus.
The new album, a tribute to his late wife Geneviève Gosselin, is one of the most heartbreaking works I’ve heard in a long time. You can feel the pain in every word he’s written since her death (pancreatic cancer took her life last summer). Elverum is doing his best to raise their young daughter in his own, but the constant reminder of his lost love takes its toll day after day.
The opening lines, “Death is real, someone’s there and then they’re not. And it’s not for singing about,” give you a good idea of what this album is. I don’t think he wants to be singing about this, but it’s the only way he knows how to cope. It is perhaps the saddest recording ever made. Later in the song he sings about receiving a package addressed to Geneviève a week after she passed. It was a gift for their daughter she had purchased, and I challenge anyone to not well up at that thought.
On “Forest Fires” Elverum sings about throwing out her clothes during a heatwave that’s caused a forest fire. “I missed you, of course. And I remember thinking ‘the last time it rained here you were alive still’ and that this same long heat that I was in contained you.”
It’s these little moments of complete devestation that fill these 11 songs. It’s also the resilience of the human spirit to endure this much suffering and continue forward, finding the beauty and meaning in your life to keep going. “We are all always so close to not existing, except in the confusion of our survived-bys grasping at echoes.” This serves as a great reminder that we’re all going to meet the same end one day, which could be scary or a sliver of hope depending on your perspective.
Elverum delivers an emotional album with pieces from his life that anybody who’s lost a loved one will recognize from their own. It’s these universal truths that keep the world spinning. It’s a microcosm of our shared reality that might just help you out if you’re feeling sad or alone at some point.