Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

We stumble through life doing everything possible to avoid the one thing that confronts us all at some stage. We embrace every distraction to sidestep dealing with this great, looming mystery that we do not understand, or care to, because it is so unspeakable, so unfathomable.

In 2015, Canadian artist and musician Geneviève Gosselin, wife of singer–songwriter Phil Elverum (aka Mount Eerie) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after the birth of their first child. A few short months later, she died. She was just 35.

Elverum found himself alone, dealing with the grief and heartbreak of the loss of his partner while caring for their infant daughter.
Just two months after her sad passing, Elverum began writing and recording again. The result is the extraordinary ‘A Crow Looked At Me’, an album of such brutal sadness, tenderness and honesty, that it is almost unbearable to listen to all the way through, a torrent of heartbreak, bewilderment, helplessness and confusion.

There is no neat resolution to Elverum’s grief, no comfort in expressing his sadness through his art –the only conclusion he seems to reach is that there is no real meaning in the chaos, that life is all just an unsequenced and arbitrary series of events.

In a recent interview, Elverum said  “This new album is barely music. It’s just me speaking her name out loud, her memory.” And in a sense, he is right. Musically, it is stripped back to nothing, arid and bleak, melody and structure sacrificed at the expense of this deluge of words to his dear wife.

But there is urgency to these words, a need to capture memories of the life they had, and the chasm that exists now that she is gone.
 “I am a container of stories about you that I keep telling over and over” he sings. He talks about receiving a package with his wife’s name on it a week after her death and opening it to find a backpack she had bought in secret as a gift for their daughter. He speaks of giving away his wife’s clothes some time after she had passed and apologises for this. He describes scattering his wife’s ashes on a hillside with their daughter, in the hope she would always be able to witness the sun set.

“I realized that these photographs we have of you, are slowly replacing the subtle familiar
 memory of what it’s like to know you’re in the other room,
 to hear you singing on the stairs,
 a movement, a pinecone, your squeaking chair,
 the quiet untreasured in-between times,
 the actual experience of you here”

Utterly, utterly devastating.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)